Will Twitter Beat Facebook To One Billion Users?

Anytime now Twitter is going to announce that they’ve passed 200 million registered users – in fact, they could have done this as early as December 2010, given the platform reached 175m users at the end of October, which was up some 30 million from two months before.

Big deal, you say. Facebook has 610 million registered users (as of Feb 15, 2011). And you’d be right to notice the distinction. Facebook is, after all, three times the size of Twitter.

But here’s the thing: it took Facebook 5 years and 2 months to reach 200 million users.

Twitter did it 5 months quicker.

Who cares, you say. In the past year alone, Facebook has added 210 million users – more than Twitter has in total. And you’d be right to point this out.

But consider this for a moment: Twitter had just 75m users in January 2010. By the end of the year it had increased in size by 166%. Over that same period, Facebook grew by ‘just’ 60% (on an estimation of 375m users in January 2010 and 600m by the end of the year).

What I’m saying is: statistically, Twitter is growing faster. Sure, Facebook’s overall numbers are far more impressive, and on a daily basis it appears to be adding about 570,000 users to Twitter’s last-estimated 370,000 (although that number should be quite a bit higher by now), but: it appears Facebook’s growth is slowing. And by all accounts, Twitter’s is accelerating. It has the momentum, and the spirit, like an annoying, yappy little Doberman puppy nipping away at a Great Dane’s heels.

And when you think about it, you can understand why. Facebook gets a ton of online hype, but Twitter gets far more mainstream media coverage, to a point where it’s almost casual. As I’ve said before, you never see a TV news reporter, sports caster or live show turning to Facebook to check on the public’s reaction. That’s because they can’t, because despite their best intentions it’s still predominately a closed garden for many people. And that means the folks on TV and in the newspapers can’t get in and have a look around.

But they can on Twitter – it’s very easy to tap into mass reaction. So it gets heavily reported, and that starts to register with people, even non users. And before you know it, Twitter becomes the mainstream – on a truly global scale.

But let’s hold our collective horses. Facebook is still absolutely miles ahead. At current pace, Facebook should reach 1 billion users in less than two years. It will take Twitter more than five.

But that’s at current pace. What if things change? What if they change a lot? If Twitter doubles their userbase again in 2011, and with it their daily sign-up rate, and Facebook’s daily pace slows to around 400,000 or so, both will be on track to reach the magic billion by the end of 2013.

Okay, that’s a lot of coulda woulda shoulda. Plus we haven’t even talked about active users (which always matters). And I’ve made some outrageous, grandmother of all evil (and largely unsubstantiated) assumptions, but it’s not out of the realms of possibility. Far from it, in fact – it’s a definite six-pint maybe.

And in this crazy, social media obsessed, new dawn of a world, I’m afraid that’s about as much as you can ever hope for.

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