May 18th, 2012 by Craig Labovitz

In honor of Facebook’s recent IPO, we present a brief blog post asking the question how big is Facebook?

At a staggering $100 billion dollar valuation and reported 900 million users, Facebook is clearly a massive player in the market and Internet economy. From an Internet infrastructure perspective, Facebook also ranks amongst the largest of the “hyper giants” generating a significant share global Internet traffic.

With a PE ratio of 95:1, Facebook is also an incredibly expensive stock.

This blog post attempts to put some concrete numbers behind Facebook’s enormous Internet presence and evaluate the company’s valuation in terms of its Internet traffic contribution.

As in previous posts, we use data from an ongoing research collaboration with multiple large North American Internet providers. We analyze anonymized backbone data encompassing a geographically diverse set of several million subscribers. More details on the research methodologies used in our prior work is available here. We believe this is the largest ongoing study of its kind.

On average, our analysis finds Facebook contributes nearly one percent of all Internet traffic (the actual number is 0.75%). This includes traffic both to Facebook’s private datacenters as well as third-party edge CDN caches (over 85% of Facebook traffic relies on CDNs).

While one percent is an awesomely huge number, the really, really impressive statistic is 45%. More specifically, we estimate 45% of all Internet subscribers send traffic to Facebook servers at least once every day. This includes traffic sent directly to www.facebook.com as well as the indirect connections made by tens of thousands of third-party web sites that include Facebook content or APIs (most users are likely  unaware of all the traffic their browsers send to Facebook when they visit these third-party sites).

Given our estimate of Facebook’s traffic volume and today’s IPO price, we now calculate the first ever estimate of the value of Facebook’s Internet traffic.

We first use data from Cisco to estimate the overall size of Internet traffic (37 Exabytes per month). At 0.75% and a $104.2B valuation, this means that Facebook uses 824,000 Mbps of bandwidth continuously. When you put their valuation in terms of this bandwidth you get a staggering $124,000 per Mbps. (Amazing, considering that over the course of each day there’s over 9,000,000,000 Megabytes delivered.)

Overall, an amazing company with an equally astounding market valuation and now very, very valuable traffic.