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Is that '25 Things' meme driving Facebook growth?

Well, what do you know? A wildly popular and heavily publicized social-networking meme may have actually pulled in extra traffic to the site, according to Compete.com.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
3 min read

Unless you have been inhabiting the underground bunker formerly occupied by Dick Cheney, you've probably seen loads of press coverage over a "25 Things About Me" Internet meme that was spreading on Facebook. Basically, members would create a Facebook "note" containing 25 facts about themselves, and then "tag" 25 friends encouraging them to do the same.

Yes, it was a bona fide phenomenon, but I avoided writing about it, because I thought the whole thing was...dumb. Internet memes of that nature have been around since goodness knows when. Breathless press hype over it seemed a tad silly.

But here's something legitimately interesting. Analytics firm Compete.com says that there may actually have been a boost to Facebook traffic as a result of "25 Things," at least in the U.S.: 60 percent more Facebook profiles were created in January than in December. That's not surprising, because Facebook still requires a user account to access all its content--curious newcomers who read about "25 Things" would need to register for accounts in order to explore it.

More noticeably, U.S.-based traffic to Facebook's "notes," normally one of the social network's quieter features, skyrocketed. Four times more visitors than usual hit up the notes feature in January, according to Compete, with 28 percent of Facebook's U.S. users checking them out. (The wildly popular photo-album feature usually draws 60 percent of visitors, for comparison.)

The caveat is that Facebook continues to grow fast and so some of this could be attributed to natural growth rather than "25 Things" momentum. That said, Facebook's U.S. growth has long since started to stabilize--three-quarters of its new users now come from overseas.

Compete has said that its analysts will be posting a blog entry about this later in the week, ideally with some more insight into just how much those annoying "25 Things" lists really did catch on. I've also pinged Facebook to see if they have any internal numbers on the topic.

Here's what'll be interesting to see, at least from my perspective: Will this mean that the newfound popularity of "notes" will last? I post photos, links, and other share-able items to my Facebook profile all the time, but I think I've written a Facebook note a total of once (to alert my friends list that I'd lost all their phone numbers in a personal-electronics mishap). Note-writing always struck me as something that was a little bit too promiscuous for the mainstream Facebook user, the sort of thing that navel-gazing, overshare-prone Twitterers would spring for but which didn't fit in quite as well with the directory-like nature of the social network.

Guess I was wrong. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, after all, likes to say that Facebook has incrementally made the Web's masses more comfortable with sharing more and more information. The success of "25 Things," consequently, must be one of his great triumphs. And now he knows all these useless facts about so many millions of people.

Heaven forbid: Facebook notes could be like a gateway drug to blogging for everyone.

This post was expanded at 9:51 a.m. PT.