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Mapped: Facebook’s Path to Social Network Domination (2008-2020)

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Facebook’s Path to Global Social Network Domination

From just a few thousand users in 2004 to 2.7 billion monthly active users (MAUs) in 2020, Facebook is by far the world’s largest social network.

But its massive global footprint didn’t grow overnight. While Facebook is the most popular social network in many countries, this traction didn’t happen overnight. And in other places, it still hasn’t quite taken off.

To see Facebook’s path to domination, we mapped each country’s most popular social network from 2008‒2020. The data was tabulated by Vincenzo Cosenza at Vincos.it by examining annual traffic data from Alexa and SimilarWeb.

Facebook Grows From the Americas to Southeast Asia

What famously started as Mark Zuckerberg’s late-night intoxicated project called Facemash—a “hot or not” type website for students at Harvard University—soon evolved into the world’s predominant social network.

Before 2008, the social network landscape was populated by social network pioneers such as Myspace and Hi5. Google’s Orkut was the most popular network in Brazil and India, and Friendster found a foothold in Southeast Asia.

But the Facebook wave came in earnest. By 2009, the social media giant took the title of most popular network for the bulk of the Americas, Europe, South Asia, and Oceania, with Orkut in Brazil being the sole holdout until 2011.

The story was similar in Africa, as increasing internet traffic data pointed to Facebook dominating the social network landscape across the continent (minus a temporary LinkedIn surge in 2017 for Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Cameroon).

By the beginning of 2020, Facebook was measured as the leading social network site in 151 out of 167 measured countries, or over 90%.

China and Russia Resist Facebook’s Pull

The social giant’s growth, however, didn’t come without resistance.

China’s most popular social networking website has been Tencent’s Qzone since the mid-2000s. WeChat—a popular all-in-one messaging platform—does not technically qualify for the above map as a “social networking website”, but the app now has more than 1.2 billion MAUs. Facebook had attempted to gain ground in the country but was banned in 2009.

Similarly in Iran, Facebook was also blocked first in 2009 and then intermittently since. Instead, Iran’s most popular social networks have been Persian sites Cloob and Facenama between 2009‒2016. Facebook did manage to capture the #1 spot briefly in 2011, but since then, they’ve been displaced by Facebook-owned Instagram.

The other countries that Facebook has had trouble capturing, despite not being blocked, are Russia and many former Soviet republics. There, social network dominance has switched regularly between the networks VKontakte and Odnoklassniki, both owned by Mail.ru, a Russian internet giant.

Facebook’s Monopoly Over Mobile Social Networks

As big of a footprint as Facebook has on social networking, the tech giant’s reach is magnified when factoring in mobile apps that it also owns.

In 2020, the company saw 1.3 billion MAUs on Facebook’s Messenger app, 2 billion MAUs on the world’s most popular messaging app WhatsApp, and just under 1.2 billion MAUs on photo sharing network Instagram.

By Facebook’s own estimates in its Q3 2020 reporting, its core products are used by more than 3.2 billion people every month. That means that 40% of Earth’s population (7.8 billion in December 2020) uses Facebook-owned social media.

The question now is if Facebook’s domination will grow further, or if it’ll begin to subside.

With increasing scrutiny of tech giants, the company is facing massive antitrust lawsuits in the U.S. by federal and state authorities, and other countries are stepping up potential regulation as well. At the same time, Facebook is struggling to reach younger audiences in developed countries, which have increasingly turned to Snap and TikTok instead for social media.

Did 2020 mark the height of Facebook’s global empire, or is it just another milestone on the path towards further domination?

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Can Data Centers Be Sources of Sustainable Heat?

Data centers produce a staggering amount of heat, but what if instead of treating it as waste, we could harness it instead?

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Diagram showing how waste heat from data centers could be recaptured and recycled to provide sustainable heat in residential and commercial settings.

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The following content is sponsored by HIVE Digital

Can Data Centers Be Sources of Sustainable Heat?

Data centers support the modern technologies on which we rely, but also generate incredible amounts of heat as waste. 

And since computers tend to be very sensitive to heat, operators go to great lengths (and expense) to get rid of it, even relocating to countries with lower year-round average temperatures. But what if instead of letting all that heat disappear into thin air, we could harness it instead?

In this visualization, we’ve teamed up with HIVE Digital to see how data centers are evolving to recapture and recycle that energy.

How Much Heat Does a Data Center Produce?

To get an idea how much heat we’re talking about, let’s imagine a mid-sized cryptocurrency operation with 1,000 of the most energy-efficient mining rigs on the market today, the Antminer S21 Hydro. One of these rigs needs 5,360 watts of power, which over a year adds up to 47 MWh.

Multiply that by 1,000 and you end up with over 160 billion BTU, which is enough energy to heat over 4,600 U.S. homes for a year, or if it happens to be Oscar season, enough heat to pop 463,803 metric tons of popcorn. Less if you want melted butter on it. 

How Waste Heat Recycling Works?

At a high level, waste heat is recaptured and transferred via heat exchangers to district heating networks, for example, where it can be used to provide sustainable heat. Cool air is then returned to the data center and the cycle begins again.

Liquid cooling is by far the most efficient means of recapturing and transporting heat, since water can hold roughly four times as much heat as air.

Data centers around the world are already recycling their waste heat to farm trout in Norway, heat research facilities in the U.S., and to heat swimming pools in France.

A Greener Future for Data Centers?

Waste heat recycling has so far been voluntary, led by operators looking to put their operations on a more sustainable footing, but new regulations could change that. 

Amsterdam and Haarlemmermeer in the Netherlands require all new data centers to explore recycling their waste heat. In Norway, they require it for all new data centers above 2 MW, while Denmark has taken a carrot approach, and developed tax cuts and financial incentives. And in late 2023, the EU Energy Efficiency Directive came into force, which will require data centers to recycle waste heat, or show that recovery is technically or economically infeasible. 

With Europe leading the way, could North America be very far behind?

HIVE Digital Provides Sustainable Heat

HIVE Digital is already recycling waste heat from its data center operations in Canada and Sweden. 

Their 30 MW data center in Lachute, Québec, is heating a 200,000 sq. ft. factory, while their 32 MW data center in Boden, Sweden, is heating a 90,000 sq. ft. greenhouse, helping to provide sustainably grown local produce, just one degree short of the Arctic Circle.

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Learn how HIVE Digital is helping to meet the demands of emerging technologies like AI, sustainably.

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