Visualizing Design: 196 Flags of Countries Around the World
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Visualizing Design: 196 Flags of Countries Around the World



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Visualizing Design: 196 Flags of Countries Around the World

Visualizing Design: 196 Flags of Countries Around the World

Historically, flags primarily served as means of identification in warfare, but today, national flags are flown to represent a country both on the international stage and domestically.

Every flag incorporates design elements and colors that symbolize certain aspects of each country’s history and identity. And as you’ve likely noticed, many of them fall under similar color conventions or patterns, with the exception of a few rare outliers.

This visualization by Giulia De Amicis shows flags of 196 countries recognized by international standards, grouped according to the main design characteristics—color and pattern.

It includes 193 United Nations Member States, two permanent non-member observer states—Vatican City and Palestine, and Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy and an ex-member of the UN.

Flags of Countries: Common Shapes and Aspect Ratio

Most countries have flags in a quadrilateral shape—a four-sided polygon with four edges and four corners—mainly with a 2:3 or 1:2 aspect ratio.

In contrast, the flag of Nepal stands out with its unique layout. It consists of two triangular shapes with a white moon on the top and a white sun on the bottom section.

Flag of Nepal

The unusual flag’s design has at times caused difficulties for large-scale reproduction.

In the 2016 Summer Olympics, for example, the Nepalese flag was placed on a white rectangular cloth shaped the same as other flags.

What are the Most Popular Colors in Flags?

By far, the most popular color used in national flags is red, with 20% of listed countries featuring it in their flag design. In vexillology—the study of flags—it is believed that red is a symbol of power, bravery, revolution, and vibrancy, as well as war in reference to past bloodshed.

Green comes as the second most used flag color with 15% of countries incorporating it, followed by black (14%), purple (12%), white (11.5%), light blue (11%), and blue (9.5%). Yellow was the least popular with just 7% of countries using it in their national flags.

Certain regions share a distinct mix of colors that neighboring countries have adopted. For example, red, white, green, and black are seen in several Arab nation flags. Similarly, green, red, and yellow combinations are often symbolic of Pan-African countries.

Patterns and Symbolism Behind Flag Designs

A simple tricolor design, in either a vertical and horizontal orientation, is the most frequent pattern with 68 countries displaying it on their flags. Stars follow with 40 country flags, while 29 flags had either a seal or stripes.

But there are many other flag designs to consider, such as the geometrical designs used by Cuba and South Africa, crosses like the Union Jack of the UK, and circles like those of Japan and South Korea. And not every flag fits one single design category, such as Pakistan’s white and green flag with a crescent and star, or the many flags that include a Union Jack within their design.

Symbolism ascribed to flag design can range from abstract to more literal explanations. The meaning of flag designs can change over time, too, often influenced by major political shifts.

Flag of China

For example, the red flag of the People’s Republic of China has one prominent yellow star, which used to stand for the Chinese Communist Party, while the smaller stars were previously associated with the four social classes making up the society. Today, the large star represents China itself, while the smaller stars stand for the country’s many national minorities.

In a similar manner, other nations have made changes to their flag designs to reflect major political changes, or people have ascribed their own revised meanings to the elements depicted in their country’s flag.

Which nation’s flag catches your eye? Are there any other flags that are memorable or unique but not featured on this list?

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Every Song With Over 1 Billion Spotify Streams

Spotify’s ‘Billions Club’ playlist tracks every song with over 1 billion streams. We took the data and broke it down by decade and artist.



Every Song With Over 1 Billion Spotify Streams

View the high-resolution of the infographic by clicking here.

Spotify has a relatively short history, launching in Europe in 2008, and eventually moving into the U.S. market in 2011. Since then, the Stockholm-based company has become the world’s most popular audio streaming service with 456 million users across 183 markets.

With such a large userbase, major artists on Spotify have seen their biggest hits accumulate millions, if not billions of streams. So, in July 2021, Spotify created the Billions Club, a playlist comprising every song to reach the 1 billion milestone.

We at Visual Capitalist saw this as an opportunity to create a unique data visualization, so we compiled the entire playlist and arranged it by decade and artist.

The Top 10 Artists

Below are the top 10 artists, ranked by their number of songs with over 1 billion streams. The list actually includes 11 artists because Shawn Mendes, Bruno Mars, and Coldplay are tied with 5 songs in the Billions Club.

RankArtistArtist's Monthly ListensSongs With 1 Billion+ Streams
1Ed Sheeran76M11
2Post Malone51M9
2The Weeknd79M9
5Ariana Grande56M7
5Maroon 550M7
9Shawn Mendes43M5
9Bruno Mars51M5

Sorting this list in different ways can reveal some interesting takeaways.

By Gender

For starters, Ariana Grande is the only female artist present in the top 10. Her best performing song on Spotify is 7 rings, which was included in her fifth studio album thank u, next. The track has accumulated 1.8 billion streams since February 8, 2019.

Female superstars who narrowly missed the top 10 list include Adele, Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, and Olivia Rodrigo, who all have four songs in the Billions Club.

Most of these artists are relatively new, so it’s reasonable to assume that they’ll be breaking into the top 10 soon. Olivia Rodrigo, for example, just released her debut album SOUR in 2021.

By Artist Tenure

Which top 10 artist has been around the longest?

We measure tenure in this context as the time that has elapsed since the artist’s debut album. In this case, the crown goes to Eminem, who released Infinite in November 1996.

The 11-track album was released on cassette and vinyl, and according to the Eminem Fandom wiki, only sold around 1,000 copies. The title track, Infinite, is the only song from the album that is available on Spotify, and it currently has 33 million plays.

The Full List

The Billions Club contains over 300 songs, with the majority being released in the 2010s. This is largely due to the fact that Spotify launched at the start of that decade.

Below is the data we used to create this infographic, which can be sorted by track name, artist, play count, track length, or release date.

Track NameArtistPlay count (billions)Track length (secs)Release date
Youngblood5 Seconds of Summer1.52032018
Take on Mea-ha1.22251985
Highway to HellAC/DC1.12081979
Back In BlackAC/DC1.12551980
Someone Like YouAdele1.42852011
Rolling in the DeepAdele1.22282011
Easy On MeAdele1.12242021
FadedAlan Walker1.62122015
Let Me Down SlowlyAlec Benjamin1.11692018
Scars To Your BeautifulAlessia Cara1.12302015
ChinaAnuel AA13012019
Do I Wanna Know?Arctic Monkeys1.52722013
7 ringsAriana Grande1.81782019
thank u, nextAriana Grande1.62072019
Side To SideAriana Grande1.22262016
no tears left to cryAriana Grande1.22062018
Into YouAriana Grande1.12442016
positionsAriana Grande1.11722020
One Last TimeAriana Grande11972014
ROXANNEArizona Zervas1.31632019
Sweet but PsychoAva Max1.41872020
Wake Me UpAvicii1.72472013
The NightsAvicii1.21762014
Waiting For LoveAvicii12302015
More Than You KnowAxwell /\ Ingrosso1.12032017
I Want It That WayBackstreet Boys12131999
DÁKITIBad Bunny1.52052020
CallaitaBad Bunny1.22502019
MIABad Bunny1.12102018
YonaguniBad Bunny12062021
Meant to BeBebe Rexha1.21632017
Eastsidebenny blanco1.41732018
bad guyBillie Eilish2.21942019
lovelyBillie Eilish22002018
when the party's overBillie Eilish1.41962019
everything i wantedBillie Eilish1.22452019
hot girl bummerblackbear1.11882020
Livin' On A PrayerBon Jonvi1.12491986
That's What I LikeBruno Mars1.52062016
Just the Way You AreBruno Mars1.42202010
When I Was Your ManBruno Mars1.32142012
Locked out of HeavenBruno Mars1.22332012
24K MagicBruno Mars1.22252016
One KissCalvin Harris1.62142018
This Is What You Came ForCalvin Harris1.42222016
SummerCalvin Harris1.12222014
HavanaCamila Cabello1.82172018
I Like ItCardi B1.42532018
WAPCardi B1.11872020
We Don't Talk AnymoreCharlie Puth1.42172016
AttentionCharlie Puth1.42092018
RedboneChildish Gambino1.23262016
A Thousand YearsChristina Perri1.22852011
RockabyeClean Bandit1.32512016
SymphonyClean Bandit1.22122017
Rather BeClean Bandit1.12272014
The ScientistColdplay1.43092002
Viva La VidaColdplay1.22422008
Fix YouColdplay1.12952005
Hymn for the WeekendColdplay12582015
HeatherConan Gray11982020
Gangsta's ParadiseCoolio1.12401995
Con CalmaDaddy Yankee1.11932019
Me RehúsoDanny Ocean1.32052016
TitaniumDavid Guetta1.22452011
Be AlrightDean Lewis1.41962018
Sorry Not SorryDemi Lovato12032017
I'm the OneDJ Khaled1.12882017
Let Me Love YouDJ Snake1.72052016
Taki TakiDJ Snake1.32132018
Cake By The OceanDNCE1.32192016
Kiss Me MoreDoja Cat1.42082021
WomanDoja Cat1.11722021
Say SoDoja Cat12372019
Danza KuduroDon Omar11982010
Still D.R.E.Dr Dre12701999
One DanceDrake2.51742016
God's PlanDrake2.11982018
In My FeelingsDrake1.32172018
Hotline BlingDrake1.12672016
Nice For WhatDrake1.12102018
Don't Start NowDua Lipa2.11832020
New RulesDua Lipa1.82092017
LevitatingDua Lipa1.62032020
IDGAFDua Lipa1.32172017
In My MindDynoro1.21842018
Hotel California (2013 Remaster)Eagles1.23911976
SeptemberEarth, Wind & Fire1.12151978
Shape of YouEd Sheeran3.32332017
PerfectEd Sheeran2.22632017
Thinking out LoudEd Sheeran2.12812014
PhotographEd Sheeran22592014
I Don't CareEd Sheeran1.62192019
Bad HabitsEd Sheeran1.32302021
Beautiful PeopleEd Sheeran1.21972019
Galway GirlEd Sheeran1.11702017
HappierEd Sheeran1.12072017
Castle on the HillEd Sheeran1.12612017
ShiversEd Sheeran12072021
Love Me Like You DoEllie Goulding1.32522015
Cold Heart (PNAU Remix)Elton John1.22022021
Lose YourselfEminem1.63262005
Till I CollapseEminem1.52972002
Without MeEminem1.32902002
The Real Slim ShadyEminem1.12842000
Love The Way You LieEminem1.12632010
Work from HomeFifth Harmony1.32142016
DreamsFleetwood Mac1.12571977
Pumped Up KicksFoster The People1.32402011
UnforgettableFrench Montana1.62332017
Mask OffFuture1.32042017
Life Is GoodFuture12372020
Me, Myself & IG-Eazy1.12512015
Heat WavesGlass Animals2.12382020
i hate u, i love ugnash1.22512016
Somebody That I Used To KnowGotye1.32442011
StarvingHailee Steinfeld1.11812016
Without MeHalsey1.62022018
Watermelon SugarHarry Styles21742019
As It WasHarry Styles1.51672022
Adore YouHarry Styles1.22072019
Sign of the TimesHarry Styles1.13402017
Take Me to ChurchHozier1.92412014
BelieverImagine Dragons2.32042017
ThunderImagine Dragons1.81872017
DemonsImagine Dragons1.61752012
RadioactiveImagine Dragons1.41862012
LemonadeInternet Money1.11952020
Mi GenteJ Balvin1.31892017
LA CANCIÓNJ Balvin1.22422019
No Role ModelzJ. Cole1.42922014
Say You Won't Let GoJames Arthur2.22112016
Let It GoJames Bay12602014
I'm YoursJason Mraz1.52432008
Ni**as in ParisJAY-Z12192011
Bang BangJessie J1.11992014
All of MeJohn Legend1.92692013
SuckerJonas Brothers1.21812019
Don't Stop Believin'Journey1.42501981
Lucid DreamsJuice WRLD2.12392018
All Girls Are The SameJuice WRLD1.11652018
RobberyJuice WRLD1.12402019
IssuesJulia Michaels1.11762017
Love YourselfJustin Bieber1.92332015
SorryJustin Bieber1.72002015
What Do You Mean?Justin Bieber1.42052015
PeachesJustin Bieber1.31982021
CAN'T STOP THE FEELING!Justin Timberlake1.42372016
StrongerKanye West1.13122007
TusaKAROL G1.32002019
Dark HorseKaty Perry12152013
HUMBLE.Kendrick Lamar1.71772017
All The StarsKendrick Lamar1.12322018
Young Dumb & BrokeKhalid1.22022017
Sex on FireKings of Leon12032008
It Ain't MeKygo1.22202017
ShallowLady Gaga1.92152018
I Like Me BetterLauv1.51972018
Someone You LovedLewis Capaldi2.51822019
Before You GoLewis Capaldi1.42152019
Drip Too HardLil Baby1.11452018
Blueberry FaygoLil Mosey1.11622020
MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)Lil Nas X1.61372021
INDUSTRY BABYLil Nas X1.62122021
Old Town Road - RemixLil Nas X1.41572019
RansomLil Tecca1.11312019
XO Tour Llif3Lil Uzi Vert1.81822017
In the EndLinkin Park1.42162000
NumbLinkin Park1.11852003
The Night We MetLord Huron1.12082015
Despacito - RemixLuis Fonsi1.62282017
DespacitoLuis Fonsi1.52292019
7 YearsLukas Graham1.52372016
Sweet Home AlabamaLynyrd Skynyrd12831974
Can't Hold UsMacklemore & Ryan Lewis1.72582012
Lean OnMajor Lazer1.71762015
Cold WaterMajor Lazer1.31852016
Light It UpMajor Lazer1.12862015
All I Want for Christmas Is YouMariah Carey1.22411994
Uptown FunkMark Ronson1.62692015
MemoriesMaroon 51.61892021
SugarMaroon 51.52352014
Girls Like YouMaroon 51.52352018
PayphoneMaroon 51.22312021
She Will Be LovedMaroon 51.12572002
MapsMaroon 51.11892014
What Lovers DoMaroon 51.11992018
In the Name of LoveMartin Garrix1.21952016
Scared to Be LonelyMartin Garrix1.12202017
Astronaut In The OceanMasked Wolf11322021
Billie JeanMichael Jackson1.22941982
I Took A Pill in Ibiza - Seeb RemixMike Posner1.61972016
Party in the U.S.A.Miley Cyrus12022009
Stolen DanceMilky Chance1.13132014
Let You DownNF1.22122017
Te BotéNio Garcia14172018
Smells Like Teen SpiritNirvana1.53011991
Ric Flair DripOffset1.11722017
good 4 uOlivia Rodrigo1.71782021
drivers licenseOlivia Rodrigo1.62422021
traitorOlivia Rodrigo12292021
deja vuOlivia Rodrigo12152021
Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix)OMI1.41802015
Counting StarsOneRepublic1.72572014
High HopesPanic! At The Disco1.31902018
Let Her GoPassenger1.72522012
Calma - RemixPedro Capó12382018
HappyPharell Williams1.12322014
Feel It StillPortugal1.11632017
SunflowerPost Malone2.51582018
rockstarPost Malone2.52182018
CirclesPost Malone1.92152019
CongratulationsPost Malone1.62202016
Better NowPost Malone1.62312018
I Fall ApartPost Malone1.42232016
PsychoPost Malone1.42212018
WowPost Malone1.41492019
GoodbyesPost Malone11742019
death bed (coffee for your head)Powfu1.31732020
Bohemian RhapsodyQueen23542018
Don't Stop Me NowQueen1.42091978
Another One Bites The DustQueen1.42141980
Under PressureQueen1.22451982
Todo De TiRauw Alejandro11992021
Under the BridgeRed Hot Chili Peppers12641991
CalifornicationRed Hot Chili Peppers13291999
Ride ItRegard1.11572019
Work from HomeRihanna1.22192016
Needed MeRihanna1.11912016
SugarRobin Schulz12192015
The BoxRoddy Ricch1.51962019
Roses (Imanbek Remix)SAINt JHN1.71762019
Stay With MeSam Smith1.61722014
Too Good At GoodbyesSam Smith1.62012017
I'm Not The Only OneSam Smith1.42392014
Dancing With A StrangerSam Smith1.11712019
WolvesSelena Gomez1.21972017
Hips Don't LieShakira1.12182005
SeñoritaShawn Mendes2.31902019
Treat You BetterShawn Mendes1.61872017
StitchesShawn Mendes1.52062015
There's Nothing Holdin' Me BackShawn Mendes1.51992017
MercyShawn Mendes1.12082017
Cheap ThrillsSia1.52112016
Young, Wild & FreeSnoop Dogg1.12072011
Chasing CarsSnow Patrol12672006
The Less I Know The BetterTame Impala1.12162015
you broke me firstTate McRae11692020
CloserThe Chainsmokers2.42442016
Something Just Like ThisThe Chainsmokers22472017
Don't Let Me DownThe Chainsmokers1.62082016
ParisThe Chainsmokers12212017
IrisThe Goo Goo Dolls1.12891998
STAYThe Kid LAROI2.21412021
Mr. BrightsideThe Killers1.62222004
Sweater WeatherThe Neighbourhood1.82402013
Every Breath You TakeThe Police1.32531983
Hall of FameThe Script1.12022012
Blinding LightsThe Weeknd3.22002020
StarboyThe Weeknd22302016
The HillsThe Weeknd1.72422015
Can't Feel My FaceThe Weeknd1.42132015
I Feel It ComingThe Weeknd1.42692016
Earned ItThe Weeknd1.32772015
Save Your TearsThe Weeknd1.22152020
Call Out My NameThe Weeknd1.12282018
Die For YouThe Weeknd12602016
Seven Nation ArmyThe White Stripes1.22322003
Another LoveTom Odell1.22442013
Dance MonkeyTones And I2.72092019
Hey, Soul SisterTrain1.12162010
goosebumpsTravis Scott1.82432016
SICKO MODETravis Scott1.73122018
HIGHEST IN THE ROOMTravis Scott1.21752019
BUTTERFLY EFFECTTravis Scott11902018
FallingTrevor Daniel1.41592020
Stressed OutTwenty One Pilots1.82022015
RideTwenty One Pilots1.42142015
HeathensTwenty One Pilots1.41952016
RiptideVance Joy1.72042014
Shut Up and DanceWALK THE MOON1.21992014
See You AgainWiz Khalifa1.52292015
Everybody Dies In Their NightmaresXXXTENTACION1.81192017
Jocelyn FloresXXXTENTACION1.81192017
Fuck LoveXXXTENTACION1.21462017
Look At Me!XXXTENTACION1.11262017
Lush LifeZara Larsson1.12012017
I Don't Wanna Live ForeverZAYN1.32452017
Dusk Till DawnZAYN1.32392018
The MiddleZedd1.31842018

Note: Our list includes two songs that have crossed one billion streams, but have not yet been added to the official playlist.

Please note that new songs are constantly being added to the Billions Club, so our list may not be up to date for very long. Both Rihanna and Taylor Swift will be joining the club any day now as Umbrella (feat. Jay-Z) and Blank Space tick up towards the one billion mark.

With songs on this playlist receiving over 446 billion streams so far, at least some of them are likely to be familiar to you. Some may even find their way into your annual feature called Spotify Wrapped, a personalized roundup sent to Spotify users covering your most listened to songs of the year.

One Final Note

With the holidays upon us, you’re going to be hearing a lot of Christmas music in the coming weeks, whether it’s at home, at the mall, or in a cafe.

Chances are, one of those songs will be Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You. Not only is this song a holiday staple, it’s also the only Christmas song with over 1 billion streams on Spotify.

Released in October 1994 with Carey’s first holiday album, Merry Christmas, the track continues to be a massive success. In 2021, it became the first and only Christmas song to receive Diamond certification by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America).

The design of this graphic is partially inspired by The Pudding’s fantastic piece, The Largest Vocabulary In Hip Hop.

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Visualizing the World’s Top Social Media and Messaging Apps

From Twitter to TikTok, this infographic compares the universe of social media and messaging platforms by number of monthly active users.



The Social Media Universe in 2022

For a time, life in the social media universe was mostly uneventful. Consider these spicy (at the time) headlines:

In hindsight, the years leading up to 2016 were downright sleepy in comparison with what would follow. Donald Trump’s meteoric, tweet-powered rise to the presidency. The Cambridge Analytica scandal. Congressional hearings on privacy and bias. TikTok at the center of souring U.S.–China relations. Each new day brought a fresh wave of controversy the shores of once infallible social media platforms.

Today, the honeymoon phase is long over and the messiness of running a global social platform is now on full display. Nowhere is this more evident than Twitter during the current Elon Musk transitional period—but more details on that later.

For now, let’s explore the social media universe in 2022.

Mapping the Social Media and Messaging Universe

In 2022, the social universe is looking more crowded than in previous years.

The scale of Meta’s platforms still dominate thanks to their global reach, but there are a number of smaller networks fighting for market share. Here’s a look at popular platforms, organized from largest to smallest active userbase:

Visualisation showing the largest social media platforms by monthly active users

Meanwhile, here are the top 10 social media and messaging platforms by publicly-available monthly active users:

RankPlatform NameParent CompanyPrimary FunctionMonthly Active Users
#1FacebookMeta PlatformsSocial network2.9 billion
#2YouTubeAlphabetVideo content2.3 billion
#3WhatsAppMeta PlatformsMessaging2.0 billion
#4MessengerMeta PlatformsMessaging1.3 billion
#5InstagramMeta PlatformsVideo content1.2 billion
#6WeChat TencentMessaging1.2 billion
#7TikTokByteDanceVideo content732 million
#8Telegramn/aMessaging700 million
#9DouyinByteDanceVideo content600 million
#10QQTencentMessaging 595 million

YouTube is the only true competition for Meta’s scale and reach. Alphabet’s video content hub with social features boasts more than two billion monthly active users. YouTube’s embrace of the creator economy is nudging the platform further into pure social media territory with the introduction of “handles”.

As seen in the visualization above, China has its own ecosystem of large social and messaging platforms—the largest of these being WeChat.

The only platform in the top 20 that is not based in either the U.S. or China is the privacy-focused messaging app, Telegram. The Dubai-based company has a unique backstory. It was created after the founders of Russian social network VK left the country after resisting government pressure to release data on the social network’s users in Ukraine.

Today, there are also a number of smaller, special interest platforms. OnlyFans, for example, is focused on adult content creators. Parler and Truth Social appeal to users who want fewer constraints on the content they post and consume. BeReal aims to create more authentic moments by prompting users to post a photo at a random time each day.

Below, we dig into a few of these platforms into more depth.

zuckerberg meta 2022

Big Trouble in Little Metaverse

Having a figurehead CEO is a double-edged sword. When things are going well, the market rallies around the successful leader. Case in point, Mark Zuckerberg was named Time’s Person of the Year in 2010. Even as recently as 2016, Glassdoor named the Facebook founder the “most admired tech CEO”.

On the flip side, when the tide turns, it turns fast. After a series of controversies, Zuckerberg took a multi-billion-dollar gamble by renaming his entire company Meta and pivoting its focus to the burgeoning idea of a metaverse. Meta’s New Horizons platform is rumored to have plateaued at about 200,000 active users, which is underwhelming for a company that still reaches a sizable slice of humanity with its other services.

Part of Meta’s near-term success hinges on VR headsets being a hot gift this holiday season. Meta’s cheapest headset is $400, which could be a tough sell in today’s economic environment.

Chart showing falling consumer sentiment in the united states in 2022

Of course, it’s too early to know whether Zuckerberg’s gamble will pay off. As always, all is forgiven once a business unit takes off and becomes profitable.

elon musk twitter 2022

Microblogging with Macro Expectations

Twitter has a complicated history.

The company was launched in the shadow of Facebook’s massive growth, and was saddled with expectations that were tough to meet. Although Twitter has an engaged and influential audience, it hasn’t managed to monetize them at the level of Meta’s platforms (for better or worse). The introduction of Twitter Blue in 2021 did not resonate with users at the scale the company hoped, and “fleets” were essentially written off as a failed experiment.

In addition, Twitter is a magnet for criticism and debate around free speech, in part because of its central place in political discourse.

These issues are directly related to the company’s recent sale to Elon Musk. At the time of this article, Twitter finds itself in the midst of a painful, and very public, internal restructuring.

If reports of an exodus of talent and advertising dollars are to be believed, then the future of one of world’s most influential social media platforms could be at risk.

social media TikTok Douyin 2022


Social media has always been dominated by Facebook and its related apps. When a new challenger came along, Facebook either acquired it (Instagram, WhatsApp), or “acquired” their features (Snapchat). TikTok is the first challenger to keep its momentum and growth, even as Instagram rolled out very similar features.

TikTok is also a rare case of a Chinese tech product crossing over into Western markets. The ascendancy of TikTok was not without controversy though. Suspicion over Chinese access to user data continues to be an issue both in the U.S., and in other large markets around the world. TikTok has been banned in India since 2020.

Despite these headwinds, TikTok remains wildly popular. The short-form video platform was the number one downloaded app on the planet, and it remains a favorite of the all-important Gen Z demographic.

nextdoor neighbors citizen 2022

We Shall Surveil

In recent years, neighborhood-based social networks have sprung up and gained traction. NextDoor used physical letters sent to adjacent addresses to supercharge its growth, while Neighbors piggybacked off the popularity of Ring’s doorbell cameras. Although members post about more benign topics such as lost cats and where to find a good plumber, crime is an increasingly common theme as well.

Apps like Neighbors and Citizen have a more overt focus on crime and safety. While the growth of these apps reflects an obvious interest preventing crime, critics point out that the ubiquity of personal surveillance equipment and forums built purely around public safety promote a culture of suspicion in communities.

This type of social network is still quite new, so it remains to be seen if they remain niche communities, or grow into something bigger.

Chaos and Opportunity

It was Sun Tzu who famously said, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”.

This is the risk and opportunity in the social media universe today. With their massive networks and high switching costs (e.g. personalization, library of existing posts), the largest platforms have created moats that make life hard for upstart brands looking to replace established platforms. On the other hand, controversy on platforms like Twitter and Facebook may cause some users to consider new options.

The multi-billion-dollar question—is dissatisfaction with major platforms temporary, or will emerging networks like Mastodon or BeReal hit critical mass and become new staples for people connecting online. Time will tell.

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