Facebook Traffic Tanks – This can't be real?

81 Comments

comscorefacebook.png

comScore is about to issue September 2007 user engagement and page views data, and it seems like the SVFurby, I mean Facebook unique visitors took a little dip. See the little decline on the red line. I can’t exactly tell how many and how accurate the data is, but it looks like a dip. [digg=http://digg.com/software/Facebook_Traffic_Tanks_This_can_t_benreal]

I just got the spread sheet and there seems to be a 9.3% decline in their unique visitors from 33.75 million in August 2007 to 30.6 million in September 2007. Even their page views are down 3.8% from August 2007. (See chart.) The only company with worse performance: Classmates.com which has filed to go public. Its unique visitors tanked 19.8%.

socialnetworks2007.gif

Why would that happen to both Facebook ahead of back-to-school season? It just doesn’t make any sense! Unless of course, the unthinkable is happening. I hope to chat with FB tomorrow and get more on this.

Update: In the light of the current data, the recent funding attempts by Facebook become even more important. Kara Swisher is reporting that Yahoo is not quite out of the picture as an investor.

But sources says Yahoo is seriously considering making a major investment in Facebook. Such a move would be bold for the typically cautious Yahoo, which bungled an attempt to buy Facebook entirely for a bit over $1 billion last year (some say $1.6 billion, but I am told the issue had to do with actually reaching a number just over $1 billion).

81 Comments

Alex

I would also chalk it up to ComScore being shaky at best. In the past, Facebook has seen large upswings in traffic due to college kids coming back to school. That may level out in time as the service is both used more in the summer (and as HS kids are now already signed up), but a dip like this would be hard to fathom at this stage.

Om Malik

Tim Glenn,

Thank you for saying that. It is my suspicion. I still would wait for data from other sources and see how things are going with them. I am sure from a trend indication standpoint, this is not such a good development especially if this repeats itself next month.

Anshuman

I’m a grad student and an FB user, and my my usage has taken a dip. Its due to my workload and class schedule more than anything. I still find FB useful though, and I access it more on a weekly basis than on a daily basis.
Generally, right about this time is when classes in the Fall semester start ramping up on workload, so I’m not surprised to see this dip, considering FB has a lot of student population.

Tim Glenn

perhaps this says more about how inaccurate Comscore’s reporting methods are

Mike

We’re sick of Facebook. It’s good for stopping in once in awhile to see what friends are doing, but the new applications are just annoying and intrusive

rzklkng

Could it also be students (College especially) realizing that it’s time to get serious about academics and swear off FB for a while? And don’t forget High School students typically don’t have always-on and always-accessible wireless broadband in their schools. This may just appear to be seasonal traffic – if older reports exist, it should be easy to spot, and simple trends may pop-out (fall, winter, spring break, summer, finals, etc.). Call it the Web 2.0 version of the business cycle – the Attention Cycle. There’s certainly a pattern of attention and consumption.

MM

2 comments: i) your headline says “TANK”, but you clear label it as a “dip” in your piece; that seems a bit sensational, and misleading; ii) monthly dips like this at facebook (as reported by comscore) have happened before and have proven to be nothing but noise in the long-term trend. and, i could go on all day about the issues w/ comscore. also, eventually the # of uniques matters much less than engagement and monetization, so i wouldnt spend too much time worrying.

Mark H

Many corporates have blocked Facebook. http://www.sophos.com/pressoffice/news/articles/2007/08/block-facebook.html

There were many articles in late August / early September about companies blocking Facebook due to it’s alleged productivity drain. It would be interesting to check with the filter companies to find out when FB was added.

I think this points to a wider issue that many potentially useful tools are being blocked in corporate environments as they are perceived as gimmicks (as Email was when it first appeared).

Wait 10-15? years until the current students hold the top management positions and see what their reaction is to the latest “gimmick”. Hopefully they will be more flexible. User education may be more beneficial to a company than user control.

dimitris

What seems to be missing from this (summary of a) report is an indication of the error bar/uncertainty in the results. I imagine more information will be available in the full report though. In any case, I would not be surprised if errors were in the order of 9-10%, which in turn would mean that this dip is not of significance. On the other hand, if their statistical sample is adequate, errors could go down to 5% or less, indicating a significant decrease.

Paul Sweeney

Could it not be the case that some of the page impressions were not registered in a recent fb upgrade? The other thing that may have happened (though unlikely) is that a certain eco-system of people have now been fished out, and the system is waiting to connect to the rest of the population. BTW: was giving a talk at a local university two days ago, and I asked for a show of hands as to what social network they were on. 33% bebo, 33% myspace, 33% fb. I asked why was member of multiple networks (none!); who was planning on moving to facebook (none!). I have to tell you, I was a little shocked.

Chuck

I propose that the dip is a leading indicator of the business going ex-growth. The newbies (“200,000” users per day WSJ 25Sep) generate lots of initial traffic, “oh I haven’t been in touch with Bob in years” say each newbie brings others 1-6 month old newbies back on-site to check out the connection. However once a person’s network has “got” facebook, then the traffic tails off. The dip of around 3m uniques is just due to this setup phase of facebook usage tailing off and settling down to the hardcore usage level.

Gareth

This has got to be fake data. I’m getting 5-6 friend requests a day still. Facebook is taking over the market as fast as Google took over search. This time next year MySpace and Bebo will be almost dead. It is now Facebooks to loose and they don’t seem to be doing anything wrong except maybee taking the money and running.

Ajitpal Pannu

I agree with the furby example. Facebook should have exited when it was at the $10B valuation rumors. With myspace releasing the open API’s soon, Facebook switch is just 1-click away. I give Facebook 10 more months before it chokes.

scott mcdougall

I find facebook interface to be ugly and not very intuitive and I HATE the ugly popup flashy tacky adds. The Advertising is TACKY.
It is also not the easiest thing to navigate and in many aspects the logic is convoluted.
Looks bad, stale square, like and old PC-AT with windows 98 now a brick that holds open a door. I run facebook on my MAC, it makes my MAC look bad IMO.

Mark

I’m not surprised by this either, but I think there is another unspoken reason that no one seems to be picking up on.
Facebook’s users were always a bit up-market and less techy than MySpace’s or other sites. The opening up of the App-Factory on Facebook has created a lot of buzz among avid fans of Facebook but also a lot of clutter on the site, which I think turns off the casual user (and many of Facebook’s 30 mm users are casual). I’ve heard a number of my friends, who previously used Facebook for a lot of their communications with friends tune out and express disgust with the number of mindless apps that are crowding up their “walls” and pages. I don’t know how many times someone can “throw a sheep” at me until it ceases to become funny and marginally beneficial to me as a user.

There is a trade-off between marginal benefit of an app and marginal cost (of annoyance or wasted time) and I think some of FB’s users are displaying their distaste of that marginal cost.

David

Actually, it’s easily explainable.

As college freshmen, recently accepted students are looking to bond with new classmates – especially having returned from orientation. This is almost wholly facilitated through facebook, as no other service provides a intra-collegiate framework for the social anticipation.

In addition, many facebook users are school students, whether in highschool or college, and as the summer draws to a close they’re connecting with those they met over the summer and more importantly, posting pictures of what they’d done during the break.

As school starts, both of these major usages will draw to a close – hence the ‘dip.’

todd sawicki

Now Om you’re probably just being an FB hater because of how insufferable the valley can be about the thing of the moment.

As I discuss on my blog relying on comscore is a bit dicey – you know as a publisher as well as anyone that comscore’s numbers are typically crap. Anyway – Alexa – another flawed toolbar tracking service – shows no such sept. decline – I put the graph in the post. Dave Morin of FB, at our mutual friend’s Dave McClure’s conf this week, showed their sept. traffic numbers and it showed no such decline. Food for thought.

http://www.sawickipedia.com/blog/2007/10/10/omg-facebook-traffic-declines-not-exactly/

@Allen – that is one funny post.

Dorrian

My guess (and that’s what it is) is high school kids back to school – no hanging out at mom and dad’s pc during the day, and competing for the time at night.

chris

I am not THAT surprised by this. Lots of FB users love it for its ability to reconnect with old friends. When they first sign up…they’re addicted. But most of my friends have cooled afterwards.

They still use it. They just aren’t addicted anymore :-).

I bet amongst adult users the #’s of new-sign-ups are increasing, and overall use amongst these folks goes down once they’ve have had a month or so to reconnect.

Allen Stern

Thanks :)

I hope we get a chance to meetup in vegas – You are one of the people I would love to get a chance to chat with.

Om Malik

Thank you Allen. But as they say, once a new yorker always a new yorker. and i was wearing black by the way. i loved the platform post.

Allen Stern

Om – now you know that SF law requires you not to speak negatively about facebook. Had you remained in NYC, you could speak like that :)

Press, press, press – now leveling off.. like a plane – goes up and up and then levels off – this is the leveling time for facebook. you may now use your tray table.

BTW, I launched a platform tonight:
http://www.centernetworks.com/cn-platform-announcement

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