The Real Reason Behind Facebook’s India Growth Story

It’s a known phenomena that Facebook is beating Orkut in India , and while there are quite a few theories around FB win, the most insightful answer comes from the horses’ mouth, i.e. from Mark Zuckerberg.

One theory that is behind the growth of Facebook is the fact that the service was mostly driven by one’s friends in US and had a little aspirational appeal towards it. A whole lot of early adopters in India started using the service, as most of their friends moved to US (for study/job) and these adopters led to the increased awareness of Facebook in India.

Also, one of the reasons why Orkut became hugely popular was the fact that the service had a bit of ‘voyeuristic’ appeal to it – one can easily look up any girl’s profile (scraps/photographs/friend list etc) and while Orkut introduced privacy settings a bit late in the game, the voyeuristic appeal of social network led to massive hits (ever been to any cybercafé in a tier-II city, where you will see bunch of guys browsing Orkut?).

Facebook too has a similar story.

Recently, in a free-wheeling interview, Mark Zuckerberg mentioned how open networks result in increased user engagement and led to growth of Facebook in these markets.  He mentioned India story and the impact of open network resulted on the service.

Country Network

When Facebook decided to open up its network (i.e. beyond college email addresses), a whole lot of Indians too joined the site and given the open network (FB recently killed the ‘network’ feature), all users coming from India were part of the single network. And they had access to each other’s public profile, i.e. voyeurism again.

As the company expanded globally, the only networks that were available in new countries, were the countries themselves. In other words, if you joined as a user in India, you became a member of the network “India”. In the U.S. however, users joined as members of Universities, companies, and other networks. While Facebook has since killed off “networks” as it pertains to privacy, networks were originally used as a way to limit what information users could access.

For example, if you attended Harvard University, other users at Harvard University had much of their profile information exposed to you by default. In India however, whenever a new user joined, they could view all other users in the entire country of India because there was only one network: India. According to Zuckerberg, this form of “open network” resulted in a dramatic increase in overall in engagement. In the U.S. however, engagement has decreased as a result of advanced privacy settings. – source

Not that voyeurism was/is the real reason for using Facebook, but the fact is that the open public profile gave Facebook the necessary traction in a market where the competition (i.e. Orkut) was slowly introducing privacy settings and was a bit stale as compared to Facebook which was constantly adding (removing) interesting features.

What’s your opinion?

Facebook recently announced that the company has 12 million users in India and worldwide, the company has crossed 500 million users.