The World’s Most Used Apps, by Downstream Traffic
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The World’s Most Used Apps, by Downstream Traffic

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The World’s Most Used Apps by Downstream Traffic

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The World’s Most Used Apps, by Downstream Traffic

Of the millions of apps available around the world, just a small handful of the most used apps dominate global internet traffic.

Everything connected to the internet takes bandwidth to view. When you look at something on your smartphone—whether it’s a new message on Instagram or the next few seconds of a YouTube video—your device is downloading the data in the background.

And the bigger the files, the more bandwidth is utilized. In this chart, we break down of the most used apps by category, using Sandvine’s global mobile traffic report for 2021 Q1.

Video Drives Global Mobile Internet Traffic

The biggest files use the most data, and video files take the cake.

According to Android Central, streaming video ranges from about 0.7GB per hour of data for a 480p video to 1.5GB per hour for 1080. A 4K stream, the highest resolution currently offered by most providers, uses around 7.2GB per hour.

That’s miles bigger than audio files, where high quality 320kbps music streams use an average of just 0.12GB per hour. Social network messages are usually just a few KB, while the pictures found on them can range from a few hundred KB for a low resolution image to hundreds of MB for high resolution.

Understandably, breaking down mobile downstream traffic by app category shows that video is on top by a long shot:

CategoryDownstream Traffic Share (2021 Q1)
Video Streaming48.9%
Social Networking19.3%
Web13.1%
Messaging6.7%
Gaming4.3%
Marketplace4.1%
File Sharing1.3%
Cloud1.1%
VPN and Security0.9%
Audio0.2%

Video streaming accounts for almost half of mobile downstream traffic worldwide at 49%. Audio streaming, including music and podcasts, accounts for just 0.2%.

Comparatively, social network and web browsing combined make up one third of downstream internet traffic. Games, marketplace apps, and file sharing, despite their large file sizes, only require one-time downloads that don’t put as big of a strain on traffic as video does.

A Handful of Companies Own the Most Used Apps

Though internet traffic data is broken down by category, it’s worth noting that many apps consume multiple types of bandwidth.

For example, messaging and social network apps, like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat, allow consumers to stream video, social network, and message.

Even marketplace apps like iTunes and Google Play consume bandwidth for video and audio streaming, and together account for 6.3% of total mobile downstream traffic.

But no single app had a bigger footprint than YouTube, which accounts for 20.4% of total global downstream bandwidth.

CategoryTop Apps (Category Traffic)Category Traffic Share
Video StreamingYouTube47.9%
Video StreamingTikTok16.1%
Video StreamingFacebook Video14.6%
Video StreamingInstagram12.1%
Video StreamingNetflix4.3%
Video StreamingOther5.0%
Social NetworkingFacebook50.5%
Social NetworkingInstagram41.9%
Social NetworkingTwitter2.4%
Social NetworkingOdnoklassniki1.9%
Social NetworkingQQ0.7%
Social NetworkingOther2.9%
MessagingWhatsApp31.4%
MessagingSnapchat16.5%
MessagingFacebook VoIP14.3%
MessagingLINE12.1%
MessagingSkype4.1%
MessagingOther21.6%
WebGoogle41.2%
WebOther58.8%

The world’s tech giants had the leading app in the four biggest data streaming categories. Alphabet’s YouTube and Google made up almost half of all video streaming and web browsing traffic, while Facebook’s own app, combined with Instagram and WhatsApp, accounted for 93% of global social networking traffic and 45% of messaging traffic.

Traffic usage by app highlights the data monopoly of tech giants and internet providers. Since just a few companies account for a majority of global smartphone internet traffic, they have a lot more bartering power (and responsibility) when it comes to our general internet consumption.

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The World’s Biggest Startups: Top Unicorns of 2021

Here are the world’s biggest startups with a valuation above $10 billion.

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The World’s Biggest Startups: Top Unicorns of 2021

Many entrepreneurs start businesses around the world, but only the most successful new companies become “unicorns”—the biggest startups with a valuation above $1 billion.

Some unicorns are little-known companies making quiet but impactful strides in software, healthcare, automotive, and other fields. Others have already become well-known industry leaders, like aerospace manufacturer SpaceX and game developer and publisher Epic Games.

In total, there are more than 800 unicorn startups globally. That said, this visualization specifically hones in on the world’s decacorns (unicorns with valuations above $10 billion) as of December 2021 according to CB Insights.

Private Startups Valued at Over $10 Billion

The world’s most prominent unicorns constantly see their valuations change as they enter different rounds of funding or maturity.

In December 2021, there were 35 startups with a valuation above $10 billion, spread out across different countries and industries.

CompanyValuationCountryCategory
Bytedance$140BChinaArtificial intelligence
SpaceX$100.3BU.S.Other
Stripe$95BU.S.Fintech
Klarna$45.6BSwedenFintech
Canva$40BAustraliaInternet software & services
Instacart$39BU.S.Supply chain, logistics, & delivery
Databricks$38BU.S.Data management & analytics
Revolut$33BUKFintech
Nubank$30BBrazilFintech
Epic Games$28.7BU.S.Other
Chime$25BU.S.Fintech
FTX$25BChina (Hong Kong)Fintech
BYJU's$21BIndiaEdtech
Xiaohongshu$20BChinaE-commerce & direct-to-consumer
J&T Express$20BIndonesiaSupply chain, logistics, & delivery
Fanatics$18BU.S.E-commerce & direct-to-consumer
Yuanfudao$15.5BChinaEdtech
DJI Innovations$15BChinaHardware
SHEIN$15BChinaE-commerce & direct-to-consumer
Checkout.com$15BUKFintech
goPuff$15BU.S.E-commerce & direct-to-consumer
Plaid Technologies$13.4BU.S.Fintech
Grammarly$13BU.S.Internet software & services
Devoted Health$12.6BU.S.Health
Faire$12.4BU.S.Artificial intelligence
Brex$12.3BU.S.Fintech
SenseTime$12BChinaArtificial intelligence
Bitmain Technologies$12BChinaHardware
Biosplice Therapeutics$12BU.S.Health
JUUL Labs$12BU.S.Consumer & retail
GoodLeap$12BU.S.Internet software & services
ZongMu Technology$11.4BChinaAuto & transportation
Global Switch$11.1BUKHardware
Celonis$11BGermanyData management & analytics
Weilong$10.9BChinaConsumer & retail

Many of the most valuable startups are already giants in their fields. For example, social media company Bytedance is the developer behind video network platform Douyin and its international version, TikTok, and has amassed a valuation of $140 billion.

Financial services and payment software company Stripe jumped from a valuation of $36 billion to $95 billion over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even less universally prominent names like Swedish fintech Klarna ($45.6 billion) and Australian graphic design platform Canva ($40.0 billion) are well known within their respective fields.

But private valuations don’t last forever. Many eventually go public, like electric vehicle maker and Tesla competitor Rivian, which had a valuation of $27.6 billion before listing on the NASDAQ.

The Biggest Startups by Industries and Countries

Breaking down the world’s biggest startups by industry highlights that tech is still king in most investing circles.

More than 77% of unicorns valued above $10 billion are categorized directly in tech-related fields, primarily in financial and commerce software.

Startups Valued Above $10B By IndustryNumber
Fintech9
E-commerce & direct-to-consumer4
Artificial intelligence3
Hardware3
Internet software & services3
Consumer & retail2
Data management & analytics2
Edtech2
Health2
Other2
Supply chain, logistics, & delivery2
Auto & transportation1

And many of the unicorns categorized in non-tech fields are still technology companies at their core. In fact, Indonesia’s logistics and package delivery company J&T Express is one of the few unicorns not directly in tech, though it still uses automated sorting in its warehouses.

It was one of the few startups to come from somewhere other than the U.S. or China, which together accounted for over 70% of the 35 biggest startups. The UK (3) was the next most-frequently listed headquarters, while Australia, Brazil, Germany, India and Sweden each had one of these unicorns on the list.

With constantly fluctuating valuations and technological breakthroughs always around the corner, the next $10 billion unicorn could come from almost anywhere.

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Ranked: The World’s Most Popular Social Networks, and Who Owns Them

When it comes to social networks, Meta is the dominant player, with a combined total of 7.5 billion MAUs across its four platforms.

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The World’s Most Popular Social Networks, and Who Owns Them

Currently, there are over 4.5 billion people around the world who use some form of social media—about 57% of the global population.

Yet, while social media’s audience is widespread and diverse, just a handful of companies control a majority of the world’s most popular social media platforms. Meta, the tech giant formerly known as Facebook, owns four of the five most widely used platforms.

This graphic highlights the biggest social networks across the globe, measured by their monthly active users (MAUs).

Note: We’ll be using terms like “social network” and “social platform” interchangeably to refer to various messaging, video, and image-sharing platforms that have social attributes built in.

Top Social Platforms by Monthly Active Users

To measure each platform’s MAUs, we dug into various sources, including the most recent company SEC filings, and quarterly earnings reports.

A majority of Meta’s user base comes from its most popular platform, Facebook—the social media giant currently has around 2.9 billion MAUs worldwide.

RankPlatform nameParent companyCountryMonthly active users, in millions
#1FacebookMeta🇺🇸 U.S.2,910
#2YouTubeAlphabet🇺🇸 U.S.2,291
#3WhatsAppMeta🇺🇸 U.S.2,000
#4MessengerMeta🇺🇸 U.S.1,300
#5InstagramMeta🇺🇸 U.S.1,287
#6WeChatTencent🇨🇳 China1,225
#7KuaishouKuaishou🇨🇳 China1,000
#8TikTokBytedance🇨🇳 China1,000
#9TelegramTelegram🇦🇪 UAE600
#10QzoneTencent🇨🇳 China600
#11QQTencent🇨🇳 China591
#12WeiboSina🇨🇳 China566
#13DouyinBytedance🇨🇳 China550
#14SnapchatSnap🇺🇸 U.S.538
#15TwitterTwitter🇺🇸 U.S.463
#16PinterestPinterest🇺🇸 U.S.454
#17RedditReddit🇺🇸 U.S.430
#18LinkedInMicrosoft🇺🇸 U.S.310
#19QuoraQuora🇺🇸 U.S.300
#20SkypeMicrosoft🇺🇸 U.S.300
#21TiebaBaidu🇨🇳 China300
#22ViberRakuten🇯🇵 Japan250
#23TeamsMicrosoft🇺🇸 U.S.250
#24imoPageBites🇺🇸 U.S.212
#25LineNaver🇰🇷 South Korea169
#26PicsartPicsart🇺🇸 U.S.150
#27LikeeBigo Live🇸🇬 Singapore150
#28DiscordDiscord🇺🇸 U.S.140

Where in the world are Facebook users located? The platform’s biggest user base comes from India, with an audience size of almost 350 million. Its second-largest user base is the United States, with 193.9 million users, while Indonesia comes in third with 142.5 million.

But Facebook isn’t the only social giant in Meta’s network of platforms. WhatsApp has approximately 2 billion MAUs, making it Meta’s second-largest platform, and the third-largest social network overall.

Like Facebook, a significant number of WhatsApp users are located in India, with roughly 390 million users. Brazil has a large portion of WhatsApp users as well, with an audience size of 108 million.

The Billion Users Club

Meta currently dominates the social network landscape, with a combined total of 7.5 billion MAUs across all four of its platforms. However, a few other companies also hit the one billion MAU mark across all their platforms on the list:

RankParent company# of companies on the listCountryCombined MUAs
1Meta4🇺🇸 U.S.7.5 billion
2Tencent3🇨🇳 China2.4 billion
3Alphabet1🇺🇸 U.S.2.3 billion
4Bytedance2🇨🇳 China1.6 billion
5Kuaishou1🇨🇳 China1 billion

After Meta, Tencent has the second-highest reach thanks to its three platforms—WeChat, Qzone, and QQ. Of the three, WeChat is currently the most popular. On average, WeChat users send about 45 billion messages a day.

Third on the list is Alphabet, thanks to its one platform, YouTube. Founded in 2005, this video streaming platform currently has over 50 million content creators, who share approximately 500 hours of video content every minute.

Close behind Alphabet is Bytedance, with a combined 1.6 billion MAUs across its two platforms—Douyin and its international counterpart TikTok. While the apps share a lot of similarities, they function as completely separate entities, with different registration, content policies, and regulations.

Global Social Networks? Not Always

While social media networks often transcend country borders, it’s worth noting that the online realm does not completely escape the constraints and regulations of our physical world.

Since 2009, Facebook has been banned in China for not complying with censorship rules. Facebook was also blocked in Iran and Syria around the same time and has been blocked sporadically since.

In 2020, the Trump administration tried to enact a similar ban against TikTok, but the order was blocked by a federal judge and eventually revoked by the Biden administration a year later.

Despite various bans and roadblocks, it’s clear that social media platforms have seeped into the lives (and onto the screens) of users across the globe. And as internet access worldwide continues to grow, so too will the number of social media users.

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