Social network sites transformed the online experience for many people. However, while these sites have experienced years of explosive growth, growth in the proportion of users seems to have levelled off in the last two years, with the major growth in the use of social network sites occurring from 2005 to 2011. It is no longer reasonable to suggest those not on social network sites are simply unaware of them; without a disruptive innovation it is unlikely that we will see significant growth by the next survey. What we are seeing is a plateau of the diffusion curve as social network site use reached about two-thirds of the Internet population in the UK.
Social network sites have become part of popular culture. Everyone knows what they are and what they can be used for, so people who are not using them are likely to be doing so by choice. This raises all sorts of questions. Why the sudden stability at about two-thirds of Internet users? Why are the attractions not appealing to those who are not using them? Have users been put off by journalistic coverage of privacy concerns on social media sites? Were social network sites something of a fad that has now peaked, or have we reached some natural limit of the number of people interested in social media?
Note: This post was originally published on the OII's Oxford Internet Surveys (OxIS) blog on . It might have been updated since then in its original location. The post gives the views of the author(s), and not necessarily the position of the Oxford Internet Institute.