There's never been anything quite like Facebook. As a company, Facebook specializes in collecting, hoarding, keeping and engaging users. As a social network, it dominates the market with the largest user base. Facebook has a monopoly as the social network of choice for friends and families.
As the biggest social network, people often compare Facebook to MySpace. But at its peak in 2008, MySpace maxed out with fewer than 76 million unique monthly visits.
Facebook, we learned this week, boasts just under 1.5 billion monthly unique visitors. Facebook grows so fast in users that it adds more than two additional MySpaces a year to its user base.
Even more impressively, Facebook has 1.8 billion users outside of Facebook itself: 800 million users on WhatsApp, 700 million on Messenger and 300 million on Instagram.
Of course there is a huge and unknown overlap. Still, Facebook's total active user number is 3.3 billion. That's a higher number than all the other major social networks combined.
As Facebook proved in its earnings report this week, the opportunities for monetization are enormous. The company has demonstrated that it can make huge revenue in mobile and video ads, and the company is just getting started in those areas. It's also investing heavily in keeping users glued to Facebook with music and video. They're getting into commerce. If all that's not enough, they own Oculus VR, and are likely to be a major force in the coming virtual reality revolution.
Facebook is killing it. Twitter, not so much.
The trouble with Twitter
Twitter also announced earnings this week. After the call, the company's share price dropped to a 52-week low. The reason is that interim CEO Jack Dorsey said the company is lousy at communicating to and thrilling "mainstream" users, and as result, struggles to gain new users. He added that fixing Twitter will take "considerable" time.
Twitter now has 316 million monthly users, up from 308 million in the first quarter. (Twitter is about the size of Instagram, the smallest social network in the Facebook fleet.)
Even more troubling is that Twitter Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto said during the call that "sustained, meaningful growth" can't happen until Twitter reaches "the mass market."
The "mass market" is just Twitter code for "Facebook users."
Twitter has a serious and obvious case of Facebook envy and, perhaps, is suffering from identity crisis. They want what Facebook's got, and they're apparently planning to get it by re-creating Twitter in Facebook's image.
And that might be a huge mistake.
Twitter was the best Twitter
Twitter gained fans by asserting itself as the hyper-minimalist alternative to all other social networks. It's beauty and power was the 140-character limit on messages. While that's hard for people trying to have conversations or express complex ideas, it's great for followers. They could follow a large number of people and news sources without being overwhelmed.
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