Social media platform numbers: how many people are using what today?

Bryan Alexander 2023-10-05

Greetings from an extremely busy day.  Today the Future Trends Forum is going to explore options for academic Twitter.  I’m very excited about this conversation. Where are folks going?  How many are staying on Twitter, and how many WILL head to Bluesky, Mastodon, etc?

One detail I’d like to touch on is just how large each platform is, as far as we can tell. For this post I’d like to offer some quick, back of the envelope, I’m-not-a-statistician estimates for conversational purposes. I don’t have time for trends extrapolation today, just a snapshot of where social media stand on this October 2023 day.

If any reader has better numbers, please let me know in comments.

Let’s start with the leading Fediverse platform. How many people now use Mastodon? The page states 1.4 million monthly active users.

We can find more data on this score. According to Eric Khun’s tracker, the number of total (not just “active”) users is over 8 million:

Mastodon user numbers over time - growing.

Those numbers come from this Mastodon API, which offers a “user_count” of 8,073,406 today, along with a “server_count” of 9,138.

What proportion of those users are active?  One site considered numbers earlier this year and estimated 22%.  That would mean 1,776,149 actives today.  Techcrunch cited 2.1 million active users in July.  That’s when Khun had total users in the upper 7 millions, so perhaps 27% is a better figure, yielding 2,179,820 active users now.  That’s higher than the official number, and I’m not sure why.  Does the official site have a logic for excluding some users, or…?

Elsewhere, how is Bluesky doing?  Techcrunch estimates about 1 million users now.  This developer states 1,385,904 “Total Registered Users,” without breaking out active ones. A couple of weeks ago Bezinga reported on a “total membership” of “about 1.125 million,” with “daily active users reach[ing] 237,000 in mid-September.”  That gives me a proportion of roughly 21%, so 291,040 from VQV’s count.

How fares Threads, the Meta creation?  Summer 2023 saw a serious melt. Ars Technica estimated more than 100 million stopped using it by July.  Numbers dipped down to 1.1 million active users by late September, according to Marketwatch.  The Guardian noted only a half million in August. The *total* numbers of accounts is far higher, as lofty as 130 million or 132 million by another count, but that seems to just show anyone who ever made an account.  Meanwhile, The Verge projects more than 20 million active monthly users by the end of this year.

Back to Twitter, how goes the original microblogging platform?  How far has usage dropped during the reign of Musk? Last month DemandSage estimated there were “over 1.3 billion Twitter/X accounts, but only 237.8 million of them are monetizable daily active users,” plus 528.3 million monthly users.  Statista saw over “368 million monthly active users worldwide,” after some decline:

Twitter users 2019-2024 Statista 2023

Let’s add some of the other platforms, shall we?

Instagram now carries 1.3 billion active users, according to Statista. Insta has more than 2.3 billion active users now, according to DemandSage.  They add: “a quarter of the world’s active netizens use the platform every month!” (emphases in original)

Facebook has 2.9 billion active users, as per Statista.  They deem it “the most popular social media worldwide.”  DataPortal concurs. Statista offers this fascinating breakdown by nation:

Number of Facebook users by nation, Statista 2023

Oberlo puts things a bit higher, just over 3 billion.

I’ll stop there, before looking into message platforms (Whatsapp) and video. What do you make of these numbers?  How might this data shape our approach to social media within academia?

Once again, please don’t hesitate to offer corrections and better data.