Facebook's sharp user growth appears over - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Facebook's sharp user growth appears over

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MENLO PARK, Calif. -

Facebook went public last month on its prospects for growth. But in some key areas, the social network's growth rates already are maturing.

In particular, Facebook's user growth rate in the US is slowing sharply. In April, US unique visitors to the website increased to 158 million, up just five percent from a year earlier, according to research firm comScore.

That was Facebook's lowest US user growth rate since comScore began tracking the data in 2008 and was down from 24 percent growth in April 2011 and 89 percent in April 2010, comScore said.

At the same time, the growth rate in the amount of time people spend on the social network -- otherwise known as engagement -- also is decelerating. In April, Facebook users spent more than six hours a month on the site, up 16 percent from a year earlier. But that compares with a 23 percent increase in 2011 and 57 percent in 2010, comScore found.

In some ways, the slowdown is to be expected. Facebook-already has grabbed 71 percent of all 221 million US internet users, according to comScore. At the same time, people already are on Facebook longer than any other site. The more than six hours a month that people spend on the social network exceeds the over four hours a month they spend on all Google sites including YouTube and the 3.5 hours they spend on Yahoo sites, comScore said.

With such a dominant presence and so much time already spent on the site, "declining growth rates are a natural part of the growth cycle," comScore analyst Andrew Lipsman said.

Still, the falling rates are significant, given that Facebook framed itself as a growth story to Wall Street.

When it went public last month, the company commanded a valuation of more than $100 billion, partly because investors expect Facebook to grow at triple-digit and double-digit rates -- much like Google did after its 2004 initial public offering of stock.

Yet Facebook's shares are off 29 percent since they priced at $38 -- ending at $27.10 on Friday -- and the company's market capitalization has sunk to $73.17 billion.

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