As speculation swirls over whether Facebook Inc. plans to open shop in mainland China, the site’s explosive growth in Taiwan shows the opportunity and difficultIn June 2009, the island had only 400,000 Facebook users. Over the last two quarters of 2009 and the first of 2010 it added 5.8 million users, according to one report, eventually unseating its local rival Wretch, which is owned by Yahoo Inc. By March 2011 it boasted nearly nine million users in Taiwan, according to statistics from Facebook-monitoring site Socialbakers, meaning roughly 39% of the island’s population has an account on the social networking site.
With 3.6 million users in Hong Kong, according to Socialbakers, this means Taiwan represents roughly 70% of the Chinese-speaking users of the site, though both Hong Kong and Taiwan citizens use traditional characters while Chinese use simplified.
Although it’s not clear why Facebook has suddenly become so popular in Taiwan, another Facebook monitoring site, Inside Facebook, postulates the growth rate is partially due to the popularity of Chinese language games like Happy Harvest, a game in which users tend to virtual farms much like the popular U.S. Facebook game FarmVille. In 2010 the game had become so popular in Taiwan that some restaurants offered coupons that could be exchanged for currency in the game to attract diners.