Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. have millions of users in China, the world's largest Internet market, where the social networking services are banned, according to the results of a survey released yesterday.
Facebook grew to 63.5 million users in China in the second quarter of this year from 7.9 million in 2009, London-based researcher GlobalWebIndex said in a blog post. Twitter users tripled to 35.5 million in the same period.
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Sites blocked in China can be accessed through so-called proxy services, which connect users to servers outside the country so they can visit sites that are filtered. The workarounds have helped Facebook and Twitter compete with local sites including microblogging service Sina Weibo, said Tom Smith, founder of GlobalWebIndex.
"It only takes a little bit of desk research to discover that what is called the Great Firewall is actually much more porous than the Chinese government would like to admit," Smith said in the blog post.
Facebook's Nasdaq-listed shares fell 1.5 percent to $20.32 yesterday and have lost 47 percent of their value since they started trading in May.
While they have grown, Facebook and Twitter are smaller in China than Qzone, a website operated by Tencent Holdings Ltd., with 286.3 million users. Local rival Sina Weibo had 264.1 million users. Google+, the social network created by Google Inc. last year, had 106.9 million users. China has 513 million Internet users, according to the government-backed China Internet Network Information Center.
GlobalWebIndex asked 2,000 Chinese Internet users earlier this year which social sites they have created an account for, and which ones they used in the past month.
Debbie Frost, a spokeswoman for Menlo Park, California- based Facebook, and Jim Prosser, a spokesman for San Francisco- based Twitter, both declined to comment.
Facebook has been restricted in China since 2009. Prior to selling its shares to the public, the company said in its prospectus to investors that the Chinese market "has substantial legal and regulatory complexities that have prevented our entry."