Is Facebook Purposefully Lowballing Its Official User Numbers?

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Facebook updates its official user numbers periodically on a statistics page that currently says 175 million users. They say that they update it every 25 million users, but many of us have long suspected that they may trail by much more than that.

So how many users does Facebook really have? Check out this video (which we’ve clipped above), where Facebook developer Wei Zhu seems unsure how many users they’re allowed to say they have, until someone official steps in and corrects him with “200 million.”

Zhu says Facebook has “250 or 60 million users,” then says “280.” At that point someone off frame says “200″ in an official voice, which Zhu then sticks to. But he doesn’t look like he’s happy about it.

Comscore, which if anything tends to under report user numbers for most sites, says that Facebook had 276 million monthly visitors in February. Active users and monthly visitors aren’t the same thing, but they’re close, and with a closed site like Facebook, they should be very close.

If Facebook has far more than 175 (or 200) million users, why aren’t they proudly announcing it? Perhaps because of all of the speculation on Facebook’s absurd growth over the last year. Specifically, all that growth is leading to outside analysis of Facebook’s costs, and when they might need more money.

Conspiracy theory or a coverup to hide the true costs of running Facebook? You decide.

Update: Zhu comments below, effectively neutering the coverup theory:

Michael,

I really just made a stupid mistake when I said “250-260 million users” instead of “150-160 million” :-). There is no conspiracy of any sort. I normally remember the number correctly, though.

Oh wait. I was in the middle of a bad cold when I gave the talk and am still resting at home today. It must have been the cold.

Wei

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