Facebook has just released its Q4 2016 earnings results, outlining the current status of the world's largest social network. And once again, they've reported significant growth.
First, there's monthly active users, which hit 1.86 billion, up 3.91% (72 million users) from the last report.
Facebook's continued growth is amazing, especially when contrasted by Twitter's challenges on this front. To add some perspective, Instagram is now the next biggest social network with 600 million users - less than a third of Facebook's active audience (and worth noting, WhatsApp, Messenger and China's QQ all also have more than a billion MAU, though they're messaging focused, so not as direct a comparison).
The majority of Facebook's users are on mobile, with 1.74 billion (94%) of their monthly active audience accessing the platform via mobile device.
The mobile trend is so significant that in the accompanying earnings call, Facebook announced that they'd no longer be splitting out their reports in mobile and non-mobile numbers.
On daily active users, Facebook reached a new high of 1.23 billion, a 4% increase on Q3.
Facebook has also maintained it's monthly to daily active user ratio, meaning that while the platform continues to grow, more people are coming back more often, highlighting its position as a utility as much as a social device.
In terms of revenue, Facebook hit a record $8.8 billion for the quarter, while full year revenue reached $27.6 billion - a 54% increase, year-on-year.
Facebook saw the biggest revenue increase in the US and Canada, while European revenue also continued to rise.
Average revenue per user also increased most significantly in Northern America.
In the accompanying earnings call, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg described it as another good quarter, and a good end to 2016. Zuckerberg noted that they're also seeing continued growth in engagement (though provided no numbers) and reiterated Facebook's mission to connect the world.
Zuckerberg also talked about the continued growth of video, saying video is a "megatrend of the same order as mobile". As such, Facebook will continue to invest in video products, with their new video tab - now rolled out to all US users - coming to everyone very soon.
Zuckerberg also noted that New Year's Eve was their biggest ever Facebook Live moment, with more people sharing their experienced via Live than ever before.
Zuckerberg also noted that they'll be bringing more video tools, like masks and special effects, to the platform soon.
In addition to this, Zuckerberg also made mention of Facebook's mission to advance their video elements, through working with both professional video creators and everyday users - pointing to Facebook's more recent efforts to get more video programming, even scripted shows, onto the platform, and to extend Facebook's video reach to your TV set. Expect more movement on this in 2017.
Zuckerberg also noted their ongoing efforts to reduce the impact of fake news on the network, noting that "while we don't write the news, but we want to be a place where people can get meaningful information". Facebook's already announced their efforts on this front, adding new fake news alerts and working with third-party fact checkers to improve content reliability.
Zuckerberg also briefly discussed the progress of Instagram and their messaging apps, WhatsApp and Messenger.
Zuckerberg also said that more than 400 million now use voice and video chat on Messenger every month, while 50 billion messages are sent through WhatsApp every day. Those are some staggering and intriguing numbers - particularly in the case if the former.
Zuckerberg also discussed the progress of internet.org, saying that they've now connected 50 million people to the internet through this initiative, while they've also made progress on their transmission technology which will eventually enable drones to help them transmit internet to remote regions.
On artificial intelligence, Zuckerberg highlighted their "Style Transfer" system which enables users to make their images look like classic works of art, while he also mentioned the advancement of their AI recommendation tools which can 'read' the content of what you post and suggest relevant options.
And Zuckerberg's last key area of notes was virtual reality, with the release of the latest Oculus Touch controllers and progress in social VR.
Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg discussed the platform's revenue performance, noting that Q4 ad revenue grew 53%, while mobile ad revenue now accounts for 84% of their total ad intake.
Sandberg said that there are now 65 million businesses using Facebook Pages, while 5 million have signed up for Instagram business profiles. Of those, over 4 million businesses now advertise on Facebook and 500, 000 on Instagram. And while they're amazing numbers in themselves, Sandberg noted that the gap between active businesses and active advertisers shows that the platform still has a lot of opportunity for growth on this front.
Sandberg noted that they're focused on three key areas:
- Capitalizing on shift to mobile
- Growing the number of marketers using our ad products
- Making our ads more relevant and effective
On the first point, Sandberg discussed their results over the holidays, with big increases in mobile response. On the second, Sandberg said they're working on new tools to help small businesses, in particular, grow through their use of the platform with more free tutorials and easier to use processes. Sandberg also discussed their efforts to improve the accuracy of their ad metrics following recent errors.
Overall, it's another amazing result for Facebook, with many again questioning how long their sustained audience growth can continue. On this front, it's interesting to note that Facebook saw the biggest growth in Q4 in the Asia Pacific market, where their efforts to provide better, lower cost, lower bandwidth services are paying off. And with the continued growth of internet.org, and the development of new technology to beam internet into new regions, there's nothing to suggest Facebook can't keep expanding.
At some point, it has to slow - and as TechCrunch notes, their growth momentum has slowed slightly from last quarter - but Zuckerberg's social giant continues to roll on.
Ignore it at your own risk.