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Facebook claims 100 MEEELLION active users in India

Who needs China when you've got the next billion in your sights?

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Who needs China? Facebook this week announced that its active user base in India passed 100 million – the first country to do so since the US of A.

The Social Network's VP of “growth”, Javier Olivan, said that the social network would now work with the mobile industry to nudge that figure up to one billion, according to local rag the Economic Times.

Mobile is key to the future success of Facebook in emerging markets like India, where fixed line connections are relatively scarce compared to the number of users signing up to the service on their handsets.

That’s why it’s pushing its internet.org initiative, begun last year, which has seen it partner up with six mobile companies to subsidise basic mobile web services and “bring the internet to the two thirds of the world’s population that doesn’t have it”.

Zuckerberg and co’s $19bn purchase of camera phone social site WhatsApp also highlights just how important the firm sees the channel.

"The first device that people will have to enter a connected world in India is a low-end mobile phone," said Olivan on a call attended by ET. "If you go to review a product and start with a desktop version, Mark will kick you out. Everybody has to think mobile."

The next challenge, to which many commentators have already pointed, will be in monetising those 100 million Indian users, and others in regions not known for generating big spenders.

In many ways India, as well as Indonesia and the fastest growing Latin American countries topped by Brazil, offer the best chance Facebook has of maintaining an incredible growth spurt which has seen its user base grow to over 1.2 billion.

This is especially true given that China and its 600m+ internet users aren’t allowed to access the service, legally at least, and in any case prefer homegrown alternatives.

As part of ongoing efforts to ingratiate itself with the people of the sub-continent, Facebook this week launched an "I'm a voter" feature allowing voters in the the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to pot special election day messages this week. ®

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