stats – Stay N Alive

Twitter Misleads. Bloggers Take the Bait. About that Facebook vs. Twitter Infographic…

Back in April I shared how Twitter was misleading the media and its users into thinking the numbers it was reporting were comparable to Facebook’s.  The deception stems from a report by Biz Stone at Twitter’s Chirp conference that Twitter has 105 million users.  It appears that in the last day or two many of the most popular tech blogs on the internet are taking the bait, including at least one blog that focuses specifically on Facebook, reporting an entirely inaccurate infographic, with absolutely no clarification in the matter.

The Infographic, created by Digital Surgeons, which is supposed to be a “Digital Marketing Agency”, boasts a whole bunch of figures based on a total user base of 500 million for Facebook, and 106 million for Twitter.  The problem is that Facebook doesn’t have 500 million total users.  According to Facebook’s own statistics, Facebook has “more than 500 million active users.”  For any agency in the know about Facebook (I argue if they’re making Infographics like this on such a huge statistic they aren’t), Facebook’s stats are a reflection of the total active user base and not total user base.  In fact, I was discussing with a (recently) former Facebook employee at one time how The LDS Church‘s has the largest database of online profile data in the world at 1 billion, and they suggested if Facebook counted their total user base (rather than active), Facebook’s number would be at closer to a billion users or more, not 500 million like Facebook is honestly sharing.

In SocialToo’s database I keep an ongoing cache of users based on the users we have and their friends.  That number, as of a few months ago, was a sample of about 5 million users.  Of those 5 million users on Twitter, only 30% of them had more than 20 status updates over the life of their account.  Assuming that statistic scales, that would mean Twitter’s number, as comparative in this diagram, should be closer to 30 million, not 100 million, making the entire premise of the graphic inaccurate.  Now, of course, I don’t have Twitter’s own numbers on me so I may be completely off, but I think it gives us an idea.  If Twitter’s numbers are bigger than mine, why not share them?

I sincerely hope this agency updates their infographic to a more correct number base – for something that is usually generated for mostly SEO purposes, it’s a pretty crummy thing to allow inaccurate numbers float around the web. Hopefully others can see through that (and bloggers do their own research), but mostly, I hope this agency notifies bloggers of their serious inaccuracy.  And lastly, I sincerely hope Twitter can be a little more honest with their numbers.  Listing “total users” when all your competitors are listing “active users” is a deceptive practice, and if you don’t have anything to hide, why not report the full number?  As long as Twitter isn’t you’re going to continue to see misleading infographics like this.  Then again, I’m sure that’s exactly what Twitter wants.

Here’s the infographic (note that I’m changing the title and file name to accurately report for SEO):

Digitalsurgeons Inaccurate Stats

FriendFeed’s Just Fine

friendfeedWith all the Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt around one would think FriendFeed is this service that is going the way of Jaiku, Pownce, Dodgeball, and others that went dead after their owners acquired them.  There’s no doubt that amongst certain users in the US the activity in their streams is going down and some are talking about it.  Just last month, Robert Scoble, FriendFeed’s number one user and unpaid evangelist publicly announced his resignation from the service and move over to bigger services like Twitter.  Even yesterday, Louis Gray, perhaps FriendFeed’s second most active unpaid evangelist (and both good friends of mine), shared a statistic seemingly indicating his disappointment with the service.  Yet, when you look at the big picture, things are up and to the right.  There are no statistics anywhere that indicate FriendFeed is anywhere close to losing users when you look at the numbers and the long-haul.

Louis Gray shared a graph of unique visitors yesterday which indicated that in November, FriendFeed had shown less users accessing the site than its low point a year ago.  What isn’t shared though is that Compete is normally only indicative of US users, and FriendFeed is well known as an international site, extremely active in regions such as Turkey and the mideast.  Remember the activity FriendFeed got around the Iran crisis?  Even Bret Taylor, co-founder of FriendFeed, now working for Facebook admitted that since August, International activity on FriendFeed is now dominating.  See the graph below.

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If you look at both Alexa and Quantcast 2 year stats, which when taken as a whole are generally a bit more acceptable a statistics engine in terms of general and international traffic, they both show an up-and-to-the-right trend for FriendFeed that hasn’t stopped since last year.  There are a few down points, such as when 2 months in a row, TechCrunch wrote a scathing post about FriendFeed, comparing it to “the mob”, and Mike Arrington’s fallout after that (he was one of the top-followed users on FriendFeed up until that point).  The next month Facebook acquired FriendFeed, and the lash back from users ensued, many discontinuing their use of the site, especially in the United States and Silicon Valley.  The other major dip occurred in November, where Robert Scoble, FriendFeed’s most followed user, announced publicly that he was moving his activity over to Twitter and lessening his activity over on FriendFeed. FriendFeed still appears to be recovering from that, but it’s way too early to determine if that started a down and to the right trend – I doubt it.  If you look at the Alexa stats, the 3 dips I mentioned occurred right around the the 3 events I just mentioned.  Coincidence?

Screen shot 2009-12-11 at 12.20.01 AM

Yet, when you look at FFHolic, the site which ranks FriendFeed users and their activity, you’ll notice a change in the trends.  The top users all remain the same – people from the United States and especially Silicon Valley which use the site rarely, yet are very popular.  But when you look at the most active users, you no longer see the Monas and the Louis Grays and the Robert Scobles you used to see in that section.  The most active users on FriendFeed are now their international audience.  The second most active user, VAHID, has a feed of mostly non-English posts!  So you can see that yes, when a very popular Silicon Valley blogger leaves the service, a huge chunk of the US audience leaves with them, and so does their activity, yet, the most active users aren’t even listening to or following those guys.  FriendFeed continues to grow.

I predict there will be a shift, if this continues, where the most active users on FriendFeed soon will become the most followed people on FriendFeed.  The more the popular users neglect the service, the more the more active users will have a chance to catch up to them.  FriendFeed’s founding team has made it clear they’re not killing the service.  In fact, they’ve been keeping it running and even improving it since they were acquired by Facebook.  Check out the open source Tornado Framework FriendFeed is based on – it is still getting updates from the FriendFeed and Facebook teams.  The FriendFeed team is all using the service still.  FriendFeed was just included in the deal with Google for real-time search results, which means FriendFeed is most likely a revenue-generating site for Facebook now.

If anything, the Facebook acquisition of FriendFeed should have you more comfortable, not less, that it is going to be around for a long, long time.  There is no reason for it to go away.  If it does, they’ll make it easy to get the same features you are getting on FriendFeed over on Facebook itself so you can take comfort you’re not going to lose anything.  But if anything should comfort you it’s that FriendFeed continues in an up-and-to-the-right pattern when you look at the big picture and not the short-term dips the big Silicon Valley bloggers keep bringing up.  I still see stats for my blog on FriendFeed.  As long as FriendFeed is successful Facebook has no reason to remove it as a service.  There’s still too much opportunity here.  It’s still way too powerful a tool to kill and I think we’re all jumping the gun with the “it’s dead” statements.  There are no facts supporting that statement.