Lately I’ve been seeing different blog posts about how Facebook has overtaken Myspace in international traffic. For example, last week Andrew Chen used Google Trends to find that Facebook is more popular than Myspace in a number of major countries. As an example, he plotted a graph for Australia and showed that Facebook beat Myspace around Oct. ’07.
I tried to create a similar graph for China, and sure enough, Facebook has been beating Myspace, right from the beginning.
The only problem is that the analysis is wrong is this case.
I was at a conference in China last summer, and while I was chilling with a Tsingtao in the hotel room, I noticed that Myspace was doing heavy advertisement on the equivalent of MTV.
And the thing was, they weren’t promoting myspace.com. They were promoting myspace.cn.
As for Facebook, as far as I know, they don’t have a Chinese version. Facebook.cn returns an error while facebook.com.cn just forwards to facebook.com.
Redoing the analysis, we compare the traffic of facebook.com versus myspace.cn. We see that Myspace had actually pulled away from Facebook around Oct ’07 and had been maintaining the lead since.
Furthermore, Facebook’s China users are concentrated around Shanghai and Beijing, and they search for things like ‘shanghai map’, ‘beijing airport’, and ‘beijing map’. In other words, they’re expats.
Basically, Myspace had created a site in Chinese and was trying to build up a domestic user base. Facebook, on the other hand, is relying on the spread of American influence in other countries.
My impression is that Facebook is getting all its traffic at facebook.com, but Myspace is more inconsistent. I took a quick look for Australia and it seems like au.myspace.com is the official homepage. In that case, Andrew’s chart for Australia is accurate. I haven’t looked at other countries, but my point is that this kind of analysis is pretty subtle. Just looking at Google charts without knowing the context can be misleading sometimes.
One last note. The battle between Myspace and Facebook is moot when you factor in the really big social networks in China. This is what happens when xiaonei.com is included in the graph.