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Facebook’s strong growth across Asia is continuing as it hits a major new milestone – half a billion people now use the social network every single day.

That figure – 499 million, to be precise – for the end of 2017 is up from 396 million at the end of 2016, according to Facebook’s newest data released overnight.

Facebook’s Asia growth, however, has slowed significantly – right now it’s at 4.8 percent rising daily active users, versus 7.6 percent at the end of 2016.

Even worse, Facebook actually lost daily visitors for the first time in the US and Canada, dropping 1 million to 184 million.

‘Meaningful’ interactions

“2017 was a strong year for Facebook in many ways,” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a statement. But he went on to describe it as “also a hard year” for his US$540 billion company.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

Photo credit: Mark Zuckerberg

“The world feels anxious and divided—and that played out on Facebook. We’ve seen abuse on our platform, including interference from nation states, the spread of news that is false, sensational and polarizing, and debate about the utility of social media. We have a responsibility to fully understand how our services are used, and to do everything we can to amplify the good and prevent the harm,” he added.

Zuckerberg outlined how Facebook is “prioritizing meaningful social interactions over passive consumption of content,” which has led to people seeing far fewer posts from brands or media outlets and a lot more from friends.

While the Facebook backlash has mainly played out in the US over Russian bots peddling fake or divisive news during a raucous presidential election year, the newsfeed changes will affect users around the world.

Already, the time spent on the social network is dropping, Zuckerberg conceded – down 5 percent. “In total, we made changes that reduced time spent on Facebook by roughly 50 million hours every day,” said the boss during a call with investors.

Line, Facebook’s single biggest adversary on the continent (ignoring China’s WeChat), is struggling too. The app – most of whose users are in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia – has been losing active users for over a year. Japan-based Line yesterday posted a shock loss (US$37 million) as it spends to promote new services outside its core social network.

This post Facebook now has 500m people using it every day across Asia – but popularity is slowing appeared first on Tech in Asia.

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