Facebook Passes MySpace With Global Boost

By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Facebook may have started to win the global popularity contest over the rival social network site MySpace, judging from some recent figures.

Last month, Facebook had 123.9 million unique visitors and 50.6 billion page views worldwide, according to the research firm ComScore. MySpace, meanwhile, had 114.6 million unique visitors and 45.4 billion page views. According to the Reston research firm, this is the first time Facebook has edged past MySpace in those measures.

Facebook has its growing popularity outside the country to thank for the milestone. In the United States, however, MySpace is still on top and pulls in twice as many visitors as its main competition on a monthly basis, according to the firm. MySpace gets more than 70 million visits from U.S. Web surfers in a typical month.

A researcher with the firm said yesterday that Facebook use has been growing quickly, while growth for MySpace has leveled off somewhat. "It's been around longer," Andrew Lipsman said of MySpace. "It's at a different space in its growth curve."

MySpace was launched in 2003; Facebook was launched in 2004, and use of the site was limited to students until September 2006.

Facebook has seen brisk growth overseas in the past year. From May 2007 to May 2008, its user base grew 162 percent, compared with 5 percent growth for MySpace. Counting only users in the United States, growth was 34 percent for Facebook and 7 percent for MySpace. To encourage growth outside the United States, Facebook has created Spanish, German and French versions of its site in recent months.

The two social networks are competing for larger pieces of the $1.4 billion that advertisers are expected to spend this year to promote their wares on such sites, a figure calculated by eMarketer, a research firm. About half of all online advertising dollars come from companies in the United States.

So far, advertisers have been spending less at social networking sites than expected. Last month, Fox Interactive Media, the unit that manages MySpace, announced that it will miss its revenue target of $1 billion by 10 percent for the year. To better attract advertisers, MySpace launched a redesign last week with new, larger ads designed to make more of an impression on users.

MySpace owner Rupert Murdoch has taken note of Facebook's brisk growth numbers. The mogul may have reason to be annoyed by Facebook's fast growth; he paid $580 million for MySpace in 2005.

Murdoch recently said Facebook is a "flavor of the month," according to a British tech news site. He has also boasted about research figures that show that MySpace users spend far more time at the site than Facebook users spend at that site.

Later this year, MySpace is scheduled to update its site with online shops where users can buy music downloads and concert tickets, in a profit-sharing deal with major music companies.

MySpace is also trying out a new look this month. Known for its cluttered, flashing pages, a recent redesign has peeled off some of the software tools and widgets that had once crowded the site's pages.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company