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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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Energy

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?

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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.

NamePopulation Annual Electricity Consumption (TWh)
China1,443M6,543
United States330.2M3,989
All of the world’s data centers-205
State of New York19.3M161
Bitcoin network -129 
Norway5.4M124
Bangladesh165.7M70
Google-12
Facebook-5
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 the share of cryptominers that use each energy type vary across four global regions.

Energy SourceAsia-PacificEuropeLatin America
and the Caribbean
North America
Hydroelectric65%60%67%61%
Natural gas38%33%17%44%
Coal65%2%0%28%
Wind23%7%0%22%
Oil12%7%33%22%
Nuclear12%7%0%22%
Solar12%13%17%17%
Geothermal8%0%0%6%

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.

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Technology

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.

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Streaming Service Subscriptions 2020 - Share

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.

ServiceTypeSubscribers (Q4 2020)
NetflixVideo203.7M
Amazon Prime VideoVideo150.0M
SpotifyAudio144.0M
Tencent VideoVideo120.0M
iQIYIVideo119.0M
Disney+Video94.9M
YoukuVideo90.0M
Apple MusicAudio68.0M
Amazon Prime MusicAudio55.0M
Tencent Music (Group)Audio51.7M
ViuVideo41.4M
Alt BalajiVideo40M
HuluVideo38.8M
Eros NowVideo36.2M
Sirius XmAudio34.4M
YouTube PremiumVideo/Audio30M
Disney+ HotstarVideo18.5M
Paramount+Video17.9M
HBO MaxVideo17.2M
Starz/StarzPlay/PantayaVideo13.7M
ESPN+Video11.5M
Apple TV+Video10M
DAZNVideo8M
DeezerAudio7M
PandoraAudio6.3M
New York TimesNews6.1M

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.

ServiceTypePercentage Growth (2019)
Disney+VideoNew
Apple TV+VideoNew
Disney+ HotstarVideo516.7%
ESPN+Video475.0%
Starz/StarzPlay/PantayaVideo211.4%
Paramount+Video123.8%
HBO MaxVideo115.0%
Amazon Prime VideoVideo100.0%
Alt BalajiVideo100.0%
YouTube PremiumVideo/Audio100.0%
DAZNVideo100.0%
Eros NowVideo92.6%
Amazon Prime MusicAudio71.9%
Tencent Music (Group)Audio66.8%
New York TimesNews60.5%
SpotifyAudio44.0%
HuluVideo38.6%
ViuVideo38.0%
NetflixVideo34.4%
Tencent VideoVideo27.7%
iQiyiVideo19.0%
Sirius XmAudio17.4%
Apple MusicAudio13.3%
YoukuVideo9.6%
PandoraAudio1.6%
DeezerAudio0%

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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