Facebook’s Growth in Germany and Austria: Das ist gut!

Germany and Austria have far smaller populations of Facebook users than many other European countries, but that is starting to change, and fast — both countries made our list of the top ten fastest-growing in the region yesterday. Here’s a closer look at what’s happening.

Germany, a country with 82.1 million people, grew by 541,000 Facebook users over the course of last month to reach 4.36 million monthly actives. Austria is ten times smaller, with a population of 8.34 million — but it also grew by 14 percent, gaining 129,000 users to reach 1.03 million.

This means that even though Germany is much larger numerically, Facebook has only penetrated 5.3% of the population. Meanwhile, 12.3% of Austrians are now using the site every month.

It is especially meaningful that Facebook is getting this growth in the German-speaking part of the region, because it faces an entrenched incumbent: A clone of Facebook called studiVZ. Facebook sued the company last year for copying it to the degree that it merely replaced “Facebook’s blue colour scheme with a red one.” Facebook was “seeking to end StudiVZ’s illegal activity to ensure that users are not confused and that Facebook’s reputation remains unharmed.” The suit was settled out of court a month ago. At the time, we noted Facebook was growing fast in Germany; while we don’t have fresh data on studiVZ’s traffic, last we heard in April, it was around 5.5. million. In other words, studiVZ does not appear to have a dominant share of its home market, and Facebook is now growing in the middle of it.

Time will tell if studiVZ has differentiated itself well enough as a German-language social network to be able to hold its own versus what we expect to be Facebook’s continued growth among the 105 million native German speakers in the world. For a visual aid, check out the map of German speakers in Europe, below.

[Update: As commenters add, below, studiVZ has three different sites that apparently add up to more than 15 million users. That’s at least more of the market, although it would be helpful to see current monthly active user stats for these properties.]

[Photo of a German town taken from Austria by Luiz Felipe Castro on Flickr; German language map via Wikimedia.]