Information designer Vincenzo Cosenza has released an updated map of social networking traffic around the world. Suffice it to say, there's no more compelling way to watch Facebook metastasize across the world.
What makes the map particularly cool is that it's a time series, showing a full two years of Facebook's growth, based on figures gleaned from Alexa and Google Trends. Here's how things looked in 2009:
Pay attention to the areas in red, owned by Hi5. And then check out the picture just a year later, in June 2010:
In a single year, Hi5 has been routed in countries all across the globe, ranging from Mexico to Portugal to Cameroon to Myanmar. (Yes, Myanmar.) Why those countries? Zing, meanwhile, has been pushed aside in India.
There are lots of reasons this might be. But only one really works.
If you look closely, you'll notice that all of these were bordered by other countries where Facebook already dominated. It's probably a safe assumption to say that friends reaching across these geographic borders helped the network spread: Americans reached out to friends in Mexico, Nigerians reached out to Cameroonians, and Burmese connected with friends in Cambodia and Vietnam. (If you watched David Fincher's Facebook film, The Social Network, this dynamic was mentioned, in the scene where Zuckerberg tells Shawn Parker how he rolled over non-compliant campuses by opening Facebook up to every college around it.)
The sole exception to this rule about Hi5's destruction is Mongolia, which is surrounded not by Facebook, but by Qzone in China and V Kontakte in Russia. Why hasn't Qzone rolled into Mongolia in the same way as Facebook has everywhere else?
Oh! Look at that! In Mongolia, Facebook rules by June 2011!
Which is sort of amazing. Mongolia has strong ties to China, and nonetheless, Facebook rolled right in there.
There are lots of reasons this might be. But the only one that really explains Facebook's success in so many countries and settings is the product and its design. Facebook managed to take over the American market despite how entrenched MySpace was (and to a much lesser degree, Friendster). And it did so because of its reliability, and its simple and intuitive design. More than any of its competitors, it's a stable franchise: No matter who you are, you know exactly what to expect from every single Facebook page.
Or, to put it another way: Facebook is winning because it's the McDonald's of social networking.
[Click here to see the entire time series]