Facebook’s Path to Global Social Network Domination
From just a few thousand users in 2004 to 2.7 billion monthly active users (MAUs) in 2020, Facebook is by far the world’s largest social network.
But its massive global footprint didn’t grow overnight. While Facebook is the most popular social network in many countries, this traction didn’t happen overnight. And in other places, it still hasn’t quite taken off.
To see Facebook’s path to domination, we mapped each country’s most popular social network from 2008‒2020. The data was tabulated by Vincenzo Cosenza at Vincos.it by examining annual traffic data from Alexa and SimilarWeb.
Facebook Grows From the Americas to Southeast Asia
What famously started as Mark Zuckerberg’s late-night intoxicated project called Facemash—a “hot or not” type website for students at Harvard University—soon evolved into the world’s predominant social network.
Before 2008, the social network landscape was populated by social network pioneers such as Myspace and Hi5. Google’s Orkut was the most popular network in Brazil and India, and Friendster found a foothold in Southeast Asia.
But the Facebook wave came in earnest. By 2009, the social media giant took the title of most popular network for the bulk of the Americas, Europe, South Asia, and Oceania, with Orkut in Brazil being the sole holdout until 2011.
The story was similar in Africa, as increasing internet traffic data pointed to Facebook dominating the social network landscape across the continent (minus a temporary LinkedIn surge in 2017 for Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Cameroon).
By the beginning of 2020, Facebook was measured as the leading social network site in 151 out of 167 measured countries, or over 90%.
China and Russia Resist Facebook’s Pull
The social giant’s growth, however, didn’t come without resistance.
China’s most popular social networking website has been Tencent’s Qzone since the mid-2000s. WeChat—a popular all-in-one messaging platform—does not technically qualify for the above map as a “social networking website”, but the app now has more than 1.2 billion MAUs. Facebook had attempted to gain ground in the country but was banned in 2009.
Similarly in Iran, Facebook was also blocked first in 2009 and then intermittently since. Instead, Iran’s most popular social networks have been Persian sites Cloob and Facenama between 2009‒2016. Facebook did manage to capture the #1 spot briefly in 2011, but since then, they’ve been displaced by Facebook-owned Instagram.
The other countries that Facebook has had trouble capturing, despite not being blocked, are Russia and many former Soviet republics. There, social network dominance has switched regularly between the networks VKontakte and Odnoklassniki, both owned by Mail.ru, a Russian internet giant.
Facebook’s Monopoly Over Mobile Social Networks
As big of a footprint as Facebook has on social networking, the tech giant’s reach is magnified when factoring in mobile apps that it also owns.
In 2020, the company saw 1.3 billion MAUs on Facebook’s Messenger app, 2 billion MAUs on the world’s most popular messaging app WhatsApp, and just under 1.2 billion MAUs on photo sharing network Instagram.
By Facebook’s own estimates in its Q3 2020 reporting, its core products are used by more than 3.2 billion people every month. That means that 40% of Earth’s population (7.8 billion in December 2020) uses Facebook-owned social media.
The question now is if Facebook’s domination will grow further, or if it’ll begin to subside.
With increasing scrutiny of tech giants, the company is facing massive antitrust lawsuits in the U.S. by federal and state authorities, and other countries are stepping up potential regulation as well. At the same time, Facebook is struggling to reach younger audiences in developed countries, which have increasingly turned to Snap and TikTok instead for social media.
Did 2020 mark the height of Facebook’s global empire, or is it just another milestone on the path towards further domination?
Visualizing the Power Consumption of Bitcoin Mining
Bitcoin mining requires significant amounts of energy, but what does this consumption look like when compared to countries and companies?
Visualizing the Power Consumption of Bitcoin Mining
Cryptocurrencies have been some of the most talked-about assets in recent months, with bitcoin and ether prices reaching record highs. These gains were driven by a flurry of announcements, including increased adoption by businesses and institutions.
Lesser known, however, is just how much electricity is required to power the Bitcoin network. To put this into perspective, we’ve used data from the University of Cambridge’s Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index (CBECI) to compare Bitcoin’s power consumption with a variety of countries and companies.
Why Does Bitcoin Mining Require So Much Power?
When people mine bitcoins, what they’re really doing is updating the ledger of Bitcoin transactions, also known as the blockchain. This requires them to solve numerical puzzles which have a 64-digit hexadecimal solution known as a hash.
Miners may be rewarded with bitcoins, but only if they arrive at the solution before others. It is for this reason that Bitcoin mining facilities—warehouses filled with computers—have been popping up around the world.
These facilities enable miners to scale up their hashrate, also known as the number of hashes produced each second. A higher hashrate requires greater amounts of electricity, and in some cases can even overload local infrastructure.
Putting Bitcoin’s Power Consumption Into Perspective
On March 18, 2021, the annual power consumption of the Bitcoin network was estimated to be 129 terawatt-hours (TWh). Here’s how this number compares to a selection of countries, companies, and more.
|Name||Population||Annual Electricity Consumption (TWh)|
|All of the world’s data centers||-||205|
|State of New York||19.3M||161|
|Walt Disney World Resort (Florida)||-||1|
Note: A terawatt hour (TWh) is a measure of electricity that represents 1 trillion watts sustained for one hour.
Source: Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, Science Mag, New York ISO, Forbes, Facebook, Reedy Creek Improvement District, Worldometer
If Bitcoin were a country, it would rank 29th out of a theoretical 196, narrowly exceeding Norway’s consumption of 124 TWh. When compared to larger countries like the U.S. (3,989 TWh) and China (6,543 TWh), the cryptocurrency’s energy consumption is relatively light.
For further comparison, the Bitcoin network consumes 1,708% more electricity than Google, but 39% less than all of the world’s data centers—together, these represent over 2 trillion gigabytes of storage.
Where Does This Energy Come From?
In a 2020 report by the University of Cambridge, researchers found that 76% of cryptominers rely on some degree of renewable energy to power their operations. There’s still room for improvement, though, as renewables account for just 39% of cryptomining’s total energy consumption.
Here’s how the share of cryptominers that use each energy type vary across four global regions.
|Energy Source||Asia-Pacific||Europe||Latin America|
and the Caribbean
Source: University of Cambridge
Editor’s note: Numbers in each column are not meant to add to 100%
Hydroelectric energy is the most common source globally, and it gets used by at least 60% of cryptominers across all four regions. Other types of clean energy such as wind and solar appear to be less popular.
Coal energy plays a significant role in the Asia-Pacific region, and was the only source to match hydroelectricity in terms of usage. This can be largely attributed to China, which is currently the world’s largest consumer of coal.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge noted that they weren’t surprised by these findings, as the Chinese government’s strategy to ensure energy self-sufficiency has led to an oversupply of both hydroelectric and coal power plants.
Towards a Greener Crypto Future
As cryptocurrencies move further into the mainstream, it’s likely that governments and other regulators will turn their attention to the industry’s carbon footprint. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however.
Mike Colyer, CEO of Foundry, a blockchain financing provider, believes that cryptomining can support the global transition to renewable energy. More specifically, he believes that clustering cryptomining facilities near renewable energy projects can mitigate a common issue: an oversupply of electricity.
“It allows for a faster payback on solar projects or wind projects… because they would [otherwise] produce too much energy for the grid in that area”
– Mike Colyer, CEO, Foundry
This type of thinking appears to be taking hold in China as well. In April 2020, Ya’an, a city located in China’s Sichuan province, issued a public guidance encouraging blockchain firms to take advantage of its excess hydroelectricity.
Which Streaming Service Has the Most Subscriptions?
From Netflix and Disney+ to Spotify and Apple Music, we rank the streaming services with the most monthly paid subscriptions.
Which Streaming Service Has The Most Subscriptions?
Many companies have launched a streaming service over the past few years, trying to capitalize on the digital media shift and launching the so-called “streaming wars.”
After Netflix grew from a small DVD-rental company to a household name, every media company from Disney to Apple saw recurring revenues ripe for the taking. Likewise, the audio industry has long-since accepted Spotify’s rise to prominence, as streaming has become the de facto method of consumption for many.
But it was actually the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic that solidified the foothold of digital streaming, with subscription services seeing massive growth over the last year. Although it was expected that many new services would flounder along the way, media subscription services saw wide scale growth and adoption almost across the board.
We’ve taken the video, audio, and news subscription services with 5+ million subscribers to see who came out on top—and who has grown the most quickly—over the past year. Data comes from the FIPP media association as well as individual company reports.
Streaming Service Giants: Netflix and Amazon
The top of the streaming giant pantheon highlights two staples of business: the first-mover advantage and the power of conglomeration.
With 200+ million global subscribers, Netflix has capitalized on its position as the first and primary name in digital video streaming. Though its consumer base in the Americas has begun to plateau, the company’s growth in reach (190+ countries) and content (70+ original movies slated for 2021) has put it more than 50 million subscribers ahead of its closest competition.
The story is the same in the audio market, where Spotify’s 144 million subscriber base is more than double that of Apple Music, the next closest competitor with 68 million subscribers.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s position as the second most popular video streaming service with 150 million subscribers might be surprising. However, Prime Video subscriptions are included with membership to Amazon Prime, which saw massive growth in usage during the pandemic.
|Service||Type||Subscribers (Q4 2020)|
|Amazon Prime Video||Video||150.0M|
|Amazon Prime Music||Audio||55.0M|
|Tencent Music (Group)||Audio||51.7M|
|New York Times||News||6.1M|
Another standout is the number of large streaming services based in Asia. China-based Tencent Video (also known as WeTV) and Baidu’s iQIYI streaming services both crossed 100 million paid subscribers, with Alibaba’s Youku not far behind with 90 million.
Disney Leads in Streaming Growth
But perhaps most notable of all is Disney’s rapid ascension to the upper echelons of streaming service giants.
Despite Disney+ launching in late 2019 with a somewhat lackluster content library (only one original series with one episode at launch), it has quickly rocketed both in terms of content and its subscriber base. With almost 95 million subscribers, it has amassed more subscribers in just over one year than Disney expected it could reach by 2024.
|Service||Type||Percentage Growth (2019)|
|Amazon Prime Video||Video||100.0%|
|Amazon Prime Music||Audio||71.9%|
|Tencent Music (Group)||Audio||66.8%|
|New York Times||News||60.5%|
The Disney+ wave also spurred growth in partner streaming services like Hotstar and ESPN+, while other services with smaller subscriber bases saw large growth rates thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lingering question is how the landscape will look when the pandemic starts to wind down, and when all the new players are accounted for. NBCUniversal’s Peacock, for example, has reached over 30 million subscribers as of January 2021, but the company hasn’t yet disclosed how many are paid subscribers.
Likewise, competitors are investing in content libraries to try and make up ground on Netflix and Disney. HBO Max is slated to start launching internationally in June 2021, and ViacomCBS rebranded and expanded CBS All Access into Paramount+.
And international growth is vital. Three of the top six video streaming services by subscribers are based in China, while Indian services Hotstar, ALTBalaji, and Eros Now all saw surges in subscriber bases, with more room left to grow.
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