Last updated: June 24, 2010 1:11 am

Facebook targets China and Russia

Facebook is looking to China, Russia and Japan for its next phase of expansion as its overall growth has begun to taper.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive of the world’s largest social network, said that with almost 500m members, Facebook was finding it impossible to maintain its breakneck growth.

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“We saw our exponential growth rate continue for a very long period of time, and it still does at a super-linear rate, though not quite 3 per cent a week any more,” Mr Zuckerberg said in an interview with the Inside Facebook blog.

Mr Zuckerberg told an audience of marketers at the Cannes Lions advertising festival on Wednesday that after relying largely on organic growth, Facebook would soon begin to make its first strategic local moves.

“We are down to four countries that we are not the leading social network in,” he said, naming Japan, Russia, China and South Korea.

“Now for the first time we are focused on doing some specific things in specific countries.”

He did not specify whether that would involve local customisation of Facebook in those countries, or some sort of corporate activity.

“I think if we succeed, we have a good chance of being the company that brings [social networking] to 1bn people,” he said during an onstage interview.

Facebook faces large, established competitors, including Japan’s Mixi, Tencent QQ in China and Vkontakte of Russia.

In other markets, Facebook’s user base far outstrips past leaders in social media such as Bebo and MySpace.

Non-English languages, in particular French, Spanish, Turkish and Indonesian, are growing quickly on Facebook, according to the Inside Network.

Facebook had been used in broadly the same way all over the world, Mr Zuckerberg said at Cannes, reflecting the “core need” at the heart of the service for people to share things and be part of a community.

“That is really similar across every country,” he said, although advertising and applications developed for the platform were more varied.

Mobile internet would be a driver of growth in social media, Mr Zuckerberg said.

“We are getting our first crop of countries now that have more mobile usage than web usage,” he said, citing India. “I think most people think it’s only a matter of time before that starts happening more universally.”

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