Infographic: Visualizing the Social Media Universe in 2020
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Visualizing the Social Media Universe in 2020

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Visualizing the Social Media Universe in 2020

Social media has seeped into virtually all aspects of modern life. The vast social media universe collectively now holds 3.8 billion users, representing roughly 50% of the global population.

With an additional billion internet users projected to come online in the coming years, it’s possible that the social media universe could expand even further.

How the Networks Stack Up

To begin, let’s take a look at how social networks compare in terms of monthly active users (MAUs)—an industry metric widely used to gauge the success of these platforms.

RankSocial NetworkMAUs In MillionsCountry of Origin
#1Facebook2,603🇺🇲 U.S.
#2WhatsApp2,000🇺🇲 U.S.
#3YouTube2,000🇺🇲 U.S.
#4Messenger1,300🇺🇲 U.S.
#5WeChat1,203🇨🇳 China
#6Instagram1,082🇺🇲 U.S.
#7TikTok800🇨🇳 China
#8QQ694🇨🇳 China
#9Weibo550🇨🇳 China
#10Qzone517🇨🇳 China
#11Reddit430 🇺🇲 U.S.
#12Telegram400 🇷🇺 Russia
#13Snapchat397 🇺🇲 U.S.
#14Pinterest367 🇺🇲 U.S.
#15Twitter326 🇺🇲 U.S.
#16LinkedIn310 🇺🇲 U.S.
#17Viber260🇯🇵 Japan
#18Line187🇯🇵 Japan
#19YY157🇨🇳 China
#20Twitch140 🇺🇲 U.S.
#21Vkontakte100 🇷🇺 Russia

Here’s a closer look at individual social platforms, and their trials and tribulations:

Facebook

To put it mildly, Facebook has had its hands full. A flurry of companies are boycotting Facebook’s ads, while the platform struggles to fend off the spread of misinformation.

Yet, its stock price continues to advance to new highs while the traditional economy faces less than rosy forecasts. Facebook still possesses the largest cohort of users, inching closer to the 3 billion MAU mark—a breakthrough yet to be achieved by any company.

Snapchat

Snapchat and founder Evan Spiegel have had a bumpy road since their IPO in 2017. The stock price reached its nadir near $4 in 2018, reflecting investor concerns tied to the introduction of Instagram Stories. In recent times, the stock has advanced past the $20 mark, although there is still long-term unclarity around monetization and profitability.

YouTube

YouTube competes head on against traditional television and streaming programs for eyeballs. The platform raked in revenues of $15.1 billion in 2019, nearly double their figures in 2017.

Parent company Alphabet has invested in YouTube with new rollouts like YouTube Music (merged with what was once Google Music) and YouTube Premium—a bundled subscription-based platform providing music, ad-free content, and YouTube Originals. By the looks of it, the future of YouTube will be much more than just videos.

WeChat

The biggest social platform in China, WeChat has flourished, now holding a whopping 1.2 billion MAUs. As part of the Tencent Holdings conglomerate, they belong to the BATX group that is seen to lock horns with America’s Big Tech.

Reddit

There have been whispers of a Reddit IPO on Wall Street for some time now. While such an event has not yet materialized, Reddit’s success certainly has. With 430 million MAUs relative to 330 million in 2018, the company continues to attract a larger audience. The notion of community has taken on a different meaning in the digital age, and Reddit represents this transition with their ever-growing network of users.

Instagram

Instagram has been vital to Facebook’s success, since its $1 billion acquisition in 2012. The platform attracts a younger audience compared to Facebook and it has demonstrated an ability to remain versatile, specifically by implementing Instagram Stories and Reels.

Twitter

Busy schedules don’t seem to faze Jack Dorsey who has not one, but two CEO jobs in Twitter and Square. Twitter has been able to achieve profitability in the last two years, reporting net income figures of $1.2 and $1.5 billion in 2018 and 2019 respectively. They no doubt have their work cut out for them as they continue to combat fake news and similar controversies on their platform.

TikTok

If any publicity is good publicity, then 2020 has been TikTok’s year. Headlines include privacy breaches with alleged ties to the Chinese Communist Party, a banning of the app by India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and now, talks of a partial U.S. acquisition. Potential acquirers include leaders Microsoft, Twitter, and Oracle.

Social Media Under Trial?

Despite the list of headwinds social media has faced, about half of the world is now on it—and there seems to be no end in sight for future growth.

How have companies with exposure to the social media universe fared in 2020 so far?

Companies With Exposure To Social MediaYTD Price Returns
Pinterest83%
Tencent Holdings43%
Snapchat32%
Facebook30%
Twitter22%
Alphabet17%

Widespread participation in social media comes with its fair set of problems. Some companies such as Facebook have found themselves in the crosshairs on both sides of the political spectrum. As concerns grow around privacy and data, social media will be front and center in shaping the future of government, business, and politics.

Only time will tell just how high user counts will reach. The long-term trajectory suggests there’s more room left in the engine. There are still parts of the world that are just beginning to possess the technological infrastructure for social media to be a possibility. It’s plausible future growth will come from that avenue.

If stock prices of companies linked to social media are of relevance, their performance this year paired with the fact that they are trading near all-time highs supports such a growth thesis.

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The Top Downloaded Apps in 2022

Six of the top 10 most downloaded apps in Q1 2022 were social media apps, and four of them are owned by Meta.

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The most popular apps in Q1 2022, by number of downloads

The Top Downloaded Apps in 2022

Whether they’re providing a service like ride-sharing or acting as a mere source of entertainment, mobile apps have become an integral part of many peoples’ day-to-day lives.

But which apps are most popular among users?

This graphic uses data from a recent report by Sensor Tower to show the top 10 most downloaded apps around the world in Q1 2022 from the Google Play and Apple App Store.

Social Reigns Supreme

According to the report, total app downloads reached 36.9 billion in Q1 2022, a 1.4% increase compared to Q1 2021.

A majority of the top 10 most downloaded apps were social media platforms, with Meta and ByteDance owning six of the top 10.

RankAppCategory
1TikTokEntertainment
2InstagramPhoto and video
3FacebookSocial networking
4WhatsAppMessaging
5ShopeeShopping
6TelegramMessaging
7SnapchatPhoto and video
8MessengerMessaging
9CapCutPhoto and video
10SpotifyMusic

Meta’s four platforms on the list are Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Messenger, while ByteDance owns TikTok and video-editing platform CapCut.

Just outside the top 10 are Zoom and WhatsApp Business (yet another Meta-owned app).

TikTok’s Winding Road to the Top

In Q1 2021, TikTok exceeded 3.5 billion all-time downloads, becoming the fifth app (and the first non-Meta app) to reach this milestone. This is impressive considering the app has been banned in India as of June 2020. Prior to the ban, India accounted for 30% of TikTok’s downloads.

India’s not the only country that’s banned the use of TikTok. Pakistan has blocked TikTok multiple times because of concerns over “inappropriate” content. However, it’s worth noting that the bans in Pakistan only lasted a few days before being lifted, and currently, Pakistanis are able to access the platform.

Top 10 Highest Grossing Apps

TikTok isn’t just the most downloaded app in the world—it’s also the highest-grossing non-game app, based on Q1 2022 revenue from the App Store and Google Play:

RankAppCategory
1TikTokEntertainment
2YouTubePhoto and video
3Disney+Entertainment
4Google OneProductivity
5TinderLifestyle
6PiccomaBooks
7Tencent VideoEntertainment
8iQIYIEntertainment
9HBO MaxEntertainment
10LINE MangaEntertainment

TikTok generated an impressive $821 million in consumer spending in the last quarter. The video-sharing platform was the top-grossing app on the App Store, and the second-highest-grossing on Google Play, coming just after Google One.

While none of Meta’s platforms made it onto the top 10 list for gross revenue, these platforms make a ton of money that doesn’t necessarily flow through app stores. In 2021, Meta generated more than $117.9 billion in revenue, with over 97% of that coming from ads.

Growth’s on the Horizon

The pandemic had a massive impact on the app market.

In 2020, app spending on things like premium access, in-app purchases, and subscriptions surged by 30% year-over-year to reach $111 billion.

And while COVID-19 restrictions are easing in most places around the world, app spending isn’t likely to taper off anytime soon. By 2025, spending is expected to grow to $270 billion.

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Synthetic Biology: The $3.6 Trillion Science Changing Life as We Know It

The field of synthetic biology could solve problems in a wide range of industries, from medicine to agriculture—here’s how.

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How Synthetic Biology Could Change Life as we Know it

Synthetic biology (synbio) is a field of science that redesigns organisms in an effort to enhance and support human life. According to one projection, this rapidly growing field of science is expected to reach $28.8 billion in global revenue by 2026.

Although it has the potential to transform many aspects of society, things could go horribly wrong if synbio is used for malicious or unethical reasons. This infographic explores the opportunities and potential risks that this budding field of science has to offer.

What is Synthetic Biology?

We’ve covered the basics of synbio in previous work, but as a refresher, here’s a quick explanation of what synbio is and how it works.

Synbio is an area of scientific research that involves editing and redesigning different biological components and systems in various organisms.

It’s like genetic engineering but done at a more granular level—while genetic engineering transfers ready-made genetic material between organisms, synbio can build new genetic material from scratch.

The Opportunities of Synbio

This field of science has a plethora of real-world applications that could transform our everyday lives. A study by McKinsey found over 400 potential uses for synbio, which were broken down into four main categories:

  • Human health and performance
  • Agriculture and food
  • Consumer products and services
  • Materials and energy production

If those potential uses become reality in the coming years, they could have a direct economic impact of up to $3.6 trillion per year by 2030-2040.

1. Human Health and Performance

The medical and health sector is predicted to be significantly influenced by synbio, with an economic impact of up to $1.3 trillion each year by 2030-2040.

Synbio has a wide range of medical applications. For instance, it can be used to manipulate biological pathways in yeast to produce an anti-malaria treatment.

It could also enhance gene therapy. Using synbio techniques, the British biotech company Touchlight Genetics is working on a way to build synthetic DNA without the use of bacteria, which would be a game-changer for the field of gene therapy.

2. Agriculture and Food

Synbio has the potential to make a big splash in the agricultural sector as well—up to $1.2 trillion per year by as early as 2030.

One example of this is synbio’s role in cellular agriculture, which is when meat is created from cells directly. The cost of creating lab-grown meat has decreased significantly in recent years, and because of this, various startups around the world are beginning to develop a variety of cell-based meat products.

3. Consumer Products and Services

Using synthetic biology, products could be tailored to suit an individual’s unique needs. This would be useful in fields such as genetic ancestry testing, gene therapy, and age-related skin procedures.

By 2030-2040, synthetic biology could have an economic impact on consumer products and services to the tune of up to $800 billion per year.

4. Materials and Energy Production

Synbio could also be used to boost efficiency in clean energy and biofuel production. For instance, microalgae are currently being “reprogrammed” to produce clean energy in an economically feasible way.

This, along with other material and energy improvements through synbio methods, could have a direct economic impact of up to $300 billion each year.

The Potential Risks of Synbio

While the potential economic and societal benefits of synthetic biology are vast, there are a number of risks to be aware of as well:

  • Unintended biological consequences: Making tweaks to any biological system can have ripple effects across entire ecosystems or species. When any sort of lifeform is manipulated, things don’t always go according to plan.
  • Moral issues: How far we’re comfortable going with synbio depends on our values. Certain synbio applications, such as embryo editing, are controversial. If these types of applications become mainstream, they could have massive societal implications, with the potential to increase polarization within communities.
  • Unequal access: Innovation and progress in synbio is happening faster in wealthier countries than it is in developing ones. If this trend continues, access to these types of technology may not be equal worldwide. We’ve already witnessed this type of access gap during the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, where a majority of vaccines have been administered in rich countries.
  • Bioweaponry: Synbio could be used to recreate viruses, or manipulate bacteria to make it more dangerous, if used with ill intent.

According to a group of scientists at the University of Edinburgh, communication between the public, synthetic biologists, and political decision-makers is crucial so that these societal and environmental risks can be mitigated.

Balancing Risk and Reward

Despite the risks involved, innovation in synbio is happening at a rapid pace.

By 2030, most people will have likely eaten, worn, or been treated by a product created by synthetic biology, according to synthetic biologist Christopher A. Voigt.

Our choices today will dictate the future of synbio, and how we navigate through this space will have a massive impact on our future—for better, or for worse.

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