Twitter’s final monthly user count shows a company still struggling to grow

BY admin April 24, 2019 Technology 6 views

Twitter notched a small win last quarter, adding users for the first time in a year.

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Twitter notched a small win last quarter, adding users for the first time in a year. The addition sees Twitter grow to 330 million monthly users, from 321 million last quarter, the company announced in an earnings release this morning. But that figure is still lower than its peak, of 336 million this same quarter last year.

Those losses are why Twitter decided last quarter that it would stop disclosing its monthly user count, so today’s earnings release is the last time we’re going to get an updated figure for the foreseeable future.

In its place, Twitter would prefer we look to a new metric: daily users. This figure appears to be growing more consistently and substantially. It’s now at 134 million, up from 120 million a year ago and 126 million last quarter. On its earnings call, Twitter executives said multiple times that they’re focused on growing this stat, rather than the monthly usage figure, since it more accurately reflects users it can advertise to.

That’s a better trend for Twitter, but the number is comparatively tiny. Facebook had 1.5 billion daily users as of the end of last year, having added 28 million in the fourth quarter alone. Snapchat had 186 million daily users at the end 2018. Instagram has 500 million people just looking at stories every day.

Twitter previously said its daily user count isn’t comparable to other social networks because it’s only counting monetizable daily users, and not daily users who don’t see ads. It’s not clear how much other social networks are really inflating their figures with users they can’t show ads too, though — generally, social networks control the platforms their daily users are on (unlike Twitter, which has many people using third-party apps), so you would expect that most daily users can be monetized.

A couple of factors may have helped Twitter return to monthly user growth this quarter. For one, Twitter claimed to have spent much of the last year wiping out spam accounts and other bad actors and losing millions of accounts it had previously believed to be legitimate monthly users in the process. The bulk of that work may now be over, as there’s no accompanying warning in Twitter’s earnings release. Twitter also just tends to see more substantial growth during its first quarter each year, so the bigger test will be if this recent growth can be sustained in the coming months. Unfortunately, we won’t get a direct answer to that next quarter due to Twitter’s plan to start hiding this stat.

Twitter is also using today’s earnings report to highlight — in vague terms — the work it’s doing to fight abuse on its platform. The company says it’s now removing 2.5 times as many tweets that share personal information and that 38 percent of those are detected by machine learning before anyone can report them. “The health of the public conversation on Twitter remains our greatest priority, so people feel safe being a part of the conversation and are able to find credible information on our service,” the company writes.

Harassment has long been a major issue on Twitter that’s driven people from the platform, and Twitter’s efforts here could help the network grow in the long run. But the figures it’s sharing today are all relative ones, not hard numbers, and they don’t speak to how much Twitter is actually doing — and still failing to do — about much of the abuse that takes place on its platform.


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