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Which social networks are the largest?
Which social networks are the largest?

Social networks are great examples of businesses with network effects. But which social networks are the largest?

Measured by their monthly active users, the top 10 social networks range from user counts of about 300 million to almost 2 billion. Here are the world’s top social networks (as of earlier this year) according to The Motley Fool:

1.Facebook (1.9 billion users)

2. WhatsApp (1.2 billion at February 2017)

3. Messenger (1.2 billion at April 2017)

4. YouTube (1 billion)

5. WeChat/Weixin (889 million)

6. QQ (869 million)

7. Instagram (700 million)

8. Qzone (638 million)

9. Twitter (328 million)

10. Weibo (313 million)

It’s fair to say Facebook knows a thing or two about building successful social networks. The company dominates this list.

Not only do the 1.9 billion monthly active users on the company’s core Facebook app trounce the rest of the world’s social networks by 700 million users or more, but also the top three social networks are all Facebook properties. Facebook’s messaging apps, WhatsApp and Messenger, have 1.2 billion monthly active users each. And Facebook’s photo and video-sharing app Instagram — at 700 million users — made the list as well.

In addition, Facebook’s social networks continue to grow rapidly. Even the company’s core Facebook app saw its monthly active users grow a nice 17% year over year in the fourth quarter of 2016. This growth rate easily beats Twitter’s 4% year-over-year growth in the same period — and even Twitter’s higher 6% year-over-year growth in the company’s first-quarter of 2017 — despite the fact Twitter’s growth is on a much smaller base.

There’s another dominant company on the list. Chinese internet company Tencent Holdings owns three of these 10 social networks: WeChat and Weixin (essentially different modes of the same app), QQ and Qzone. These social networks are the fifth, sixth and eighth largest social networks in the world.

Notably, the fact Facebook and Tencent together account for seven of the top eight social networks reinforces how strong a competitive advantage social networks have. By flexing the significant reach and breadth across their platforms and integrating features across the networks under their name, Facebook and Tencent offer significant value to their users and to the businesses who make money on their networks.

One surprising social network that didn’t even make the list is Snapchat, owned by parent company Snap, which just went public in March. Despite being one of the biggest IPOs in recent history, Snapchat has about 301 million monthly active users, according to estimates by Statista.

But Snapchat could make it on to this list soon. Though Snap opts to only share its daily active users with investors, this metric was up sharply in the fourth quarter of 2016, suggesting Snapchat still has some growth ahead of it. Snapchat’s daily active users hit 158 million during this period, up 48% year over year.

For now, Facebook and Tencent’s prevailing presence on this list suggests the biggest social networks won’t be knocked from dominance easily. 

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