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Home » News, Social Analytics, Social Media News

Is Twitter destined to overtake Facebook?

Submitted by on November 1, 2010 – 9:08 am10 Comments

We ask this question after Twitter revealed to the New York Times its latest growth figures in a profile this weekend of co-founder Evan Williams. Twitter has added an impressive 30 million users in the last two months, putting it at 175 million, far ahead of Facebook at the same point in its life cycle.

Intrigued by Twitter’s impressive growth spurt of 70 million new users since April, we thought it was time to go back and chart the growth of the company, now in its 56th month of existence (an eternity, yes.) What is impressive to see is the belated momentum behind Twitter. It had a slow start. Much slower, for example, than Foursquare’s early rapid development as we charted recently.

By month 18, it had about a half-million users. Within the next 16 months, Twitter soared to 58 million. It then nearly doubled in the next 14 months and tripled in size in the next 22 months. But the real growth story is what it’s done in this, Year 4. In the first eight months of Year 4 it’s grown from 105 million to 175 million, putting it on track – conservatively – to surpass 200 million by year-end.

Contrast this growth with the king of social networks, Facebook. At more or less the same point in its existence (at month 54 for Facebook; month 56 for Twitter), Facebook had 100 million users. Impressive, but not Twitter-like. Here’s our chart of Facebook growth up until the same point in its life cycle:

Of course, Facebook’s big growth spurt came in Year 5 when international usership soared (something Twitter is experiencing right now) leading it to a half-billion users.

But don’t assume Twitter leap-frogging Facebook is inevitable. There is something in the numbers that should give pause to any social network soothsayer. As ReadWriteWeb pointed out back in 2008, the fastest-growing of all social networks was… yep, MySpace. It took MySpace just three years to hit the magic 100 million user mark (compared with four years for Twitter and 4.5 years for Facebook).

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