At the outset of the Google+ vs. Facebook wars of 2011, Brazil—South America’s economic powerhouse—was often held up as proof positive that Google would one day reign over all social media. The Google-based network, Orkut (pronounced “Or-koo-chi”), created by Google’s Turkish offices in 2004, became wildly popular Brazil (and briefly India), even as Facebook cornered the rest of the global market for candid party photos and clever status updates.
By August, however, Facebook had eclipsed Google Orkut in Brazil, at roughly the same time Brazil outpaced the UK as the world’s sixth-largest economy, with around 35 million registered profiles at the end of 2011, compared to 8 million in the previous December.
Brazil, of course, has been on the cutting edge of serious computer networking for several years, boasting some of South America’s most advanced integrated systems. While other, ostensibly better developed nations around the world are still having problems implementing 4G technology, Brazil has already launched Latin America’s first 4G wireless network, thanks to DIRECTV’s SKY Brazil subsidiary. Several other telecom companies are quickly following suit.
President Dilma Rousseff has promised that 4G technology will be available in urban areas around Brazil in time of the 2014 World Cup, but travelers to hot spots such as Sao Paulo, Rio, and of course the capital, Brasilia, can expect to enjoy faster Facebooking this year.
Brazil is also Latin America’s leader in broadband access with almost 700 cities wired for fast Facebooking access as part of their PNLB (National Broadband Plan). In fact, Brazil plans to spearhead the construction of a “fiber ring” that will extend broadband access to communities around South America. What’s good for the continent is good for Brazil and the world.
In the meantime, Facebook continues to expand into these new markets, where businesses without the money or technological wherewithal to create their own webpages are increasingly using Facebook as their primary online presence. Today, you find jobs in Rio, follow the Brazilian national football (soccer) team in English, stay up to date on the 2016 Summer Olympics (London hasn’t even got a proper 2014 Winter Olympics FB page up yet) and just about anything else on Facebook.
And, in the isolated Amazon state of Acre, even folks without any Internet access at all can enjoy a taste of Facebook. A young entrepreneur Humbert Eduardo Camacho has started his own IRL club via Facebook in this small city on Brazil’s Bolivian border.