The most popular social media platforms in the world – 2004 to 2020

September 28, 2020
September 28, 2020 Tumelo Moloi

Facebook continues to be the dominant social media platform in the world, according to global user data from Statista.

Facebook boasts all three of what Statista said are the most common traits of the world’s most popular social media platforms:

  • High user account numbers.
  • Strong user engagement.
  • Originate in the United States.

However, one of the fastest-rising social media platforms – TikTok – is not American, but Chinese.

TikTok, which now boasts about 800 million monthly active users, is currently embroiled in a controversy regarding the fact that it is a Chinese company.

US President Donald Trump wants TikTok owner ByteDance to divest its US operations because the US believes the Chinese company is a potential security risk.

To this end, Oracle is in the process of purchasing 12.5% of TikTok Global, which will serve as its own company and will run all US-related TikTok operations.

Walmart will own a further 7.5% stake, while the remaining 80% will be held by ByteDance.

The most popular social media platforms

As of July 2020, Facebook reportedly had 2.6 billion monthly users, placing it ahead of YouTube and WhatsApp, which both have approximately 2 billion active monthly users.

Other social media platforms with over a billion users include Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and Instagram, while TikTok is approaching this landmark with 800 million active monthly users.

“Approximately 3.6 billion internet users are using social networks and these figures are still expected to grow as mobile device usage and mobile social networks increasingly gain traction,” said Statista.

The world’s most popular social media platforms, ranked by active users, can be viewed below.

Statistic: Most popular social networks worldwide as of July 2020, ranked by number of active users (in millions) | Statista

Social media popularity through the years

While these are the most popular social media platforms as of 2020, the social media landscape is continually evolving.

Many of the world’s most popular social media platforms did not even exist five years ago, while others which used to be among the most popular have now faded into obscurity.

OurWorldInData has created a useful graphic which compares the number of monthly active users across many of the world’s most popular social media platforms since 2004.

This data shows that through the rise of social media, there have been two platforms that have truly stood the test of time – Facebook and YouTube.

YouTube launched in 2005 and has steadily grown to the point of reaching 2 billion monthly active users as of 2020, ensuring that it is the dominant platform for free-to-access video content.

Likewise, Facebook launched in 2008 and quickly became the dominant platform to communicate with friends and family over the Internet.

This coincided with the decline of MySpace, and by 2011 it was sold for just $35 million – compared to its valuation of $12 billion in 2007.

It is also interesting to note that both Instagram and WhatsApp saw major rises in their popularity following being purchased by Facebook, to the point where Facebook now owns three companies in the global top six in terms of monthly active users.

OurWorldInData’s representation of the world’s most popular social media platforms can be viewed below.

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