Indonesian is the top Asian language used on Facebook and the fifth most popular in the world, according to a new study of languages used on the social networking site.
More than 20 million Indonesian speakers are now Facebook members, the survey by research company Inside Network found.
English is the most common language, with over half of Facebook’s 400 million-plus users — followed by Spanish, French and Turkish.
But Indonesians are way ahead of the Asian pack, despite patchy communications infrastructure and little computer access for many of the country’s 234 million people.
And it could lead to money-making opportunities, according to the California-based research company’s Inside Facebook site, which tracks the social networking giant’s rapid spread across the planet.
“As Facebook continues to grow around the world, and add the bulk of its new users in countries outside of the United States, users’ language may become an increasingly important factor for marketers and developers,” the report said.
It underlined the importance of tailoring the site to different cultures and localities.
Last month, online tracking firm comScore said Facebook delivered 176.3 billion display ads to US users alone in the first three months of the year.
But as Facebook expands, so has criticism of the company’s privacy settings and allegations of blasphemy.
The site was blocked in Pakistan for almost two weeks until Monday following a storm of controversy over a contest organised by an anonymous Facebook user calling on people to draw the Prophet Mohammed.
And Facebook is no stranger to religious controversy in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
Last May hundreds of clerics from Java and Bali islands urged top religious authorities to issue a fatwa, or edict, banning Facebook for Muslims.
The clerics argued the site enables unregulated chatting between the sexes, opening the door for “obscenity,” pornography, premarital sex and adultery.
Discussion groups ranging in topics from politics to Japanese animation and homosexuality in the national language dot the Web site.
“Facebook is like a magnet that attracts people to join,” the cleric who headed the meeting, Abdul Muid Sohib, said.
“We all know that some Facebook users use it to offer themselves for prostitution.”
Tens of thousands of Indonesians signed up to Facebook groups condemning the clerics’ call.