Meta-owned Facebook remains the largest social media platform, with more than three billion people using it monthly, according to data from Statista. It has been the top dog on the social media scene for more than a decade, even though it wasn’t the first.
Before Facebook came on the scene, there was SixDregrees, Friendster, Second Life and MySpace — and before those, there was the Bulletin Board System, where people found time to engage in discussions (and probably still argue with strangers). Facebook’s success came because it essentially did something better than those previous platforms, and it didn’t hurt that it was quick to counter potential rivals — like it did when it acquired Instagram and WhatsApp.
Yet, by contrast, X — the formerly known as Twitter — has managed to maintain its spot as the most popular microblogging platform even as it has lost approximately 13% of its daily users since Elon Musk bought the platform a year ago. It still maintains around 528.3 million monthly active users.
Several would-be successors have entered the scene.
Yet, Parler, Mastodon, Truth Social, Bluesky Social and even Meta’s Threads have simply failed to dethrone the former Twitter.
That isn’t likely to change, even as Musk continues to introduce changes to the platform that don’t resonate with many of the users.
“Twitter’s unique value proposition for real-time news would be Musk’s reason it remains king of the micro-blogging town square,” Dr. Dustin York, associate professor of communication at Maryville University, explained via an email.
Changing The Name Didn’t Change the Brand
Musk likely hasn’t done the service any favors by rebranding it X, but branding is still why the users aren’t moving to potentially greener pastures.
“Twitter has stuck around due to branding, but not Twitter’s branding – hello X,” York continued. “It sticks around for the user’s personal branding. Amassing a large following on Twitter has taken thought leaders years to build, and it’s not easy to transfer that following elsewhere. As long as Twitter keeps its thought leaders, who don’t want to lose news influence, users will continue to open the app for news and perspectives.”
York further suggested this is not different than how many brick-and-mortar businesses have operated for years. A popular location will remain popular simply because it is the cool place to be.
“Put it into the perspective of bars. Bars want women to show up, because if women are in your bar, men will come. Men consume more alcohol,” York added. “Thus, market your bar to women to increase sales of alcohol sold to men. For Twitter, women are the thought leaders, and men are the regular users. If you have thought leaders, you’ll have more ads to serve up to millions of regular users.”
Nothing Lasts Forever
It is also important to remember that while Rome wasn’t built in a day, it did see a rather steady decline and after its empire fell, it was a shell of its former self. The same was true of those former social media services — and thus could be the same for X and even for Facebook.
Likewise, the hottest nightclub only stays hot until a trendy new venue opens up.
Thus all it may take is for the next generation of influencers and celebrities to decide that a new platform rather than X or Facebook is where they want to put down stakes. The masses will then follow.
“X will be replaced. Maybe not today, but the signs are on the wall. It is true that Facebook is firmly entrenched, but something better will come along,” James Bailey, professor of leadership at the George Washington University School of Business, suggested.
In other words, we stick to those old platforms because they are familiar.
“But despite what Musk or Zuckerberg believe they can do with aging platforms, something with a new twist will come along,” Bailey noted. “Instagram is already losing out to TikTok. Someone will create a text and phone app that is more secure than WhatsApp.”
The Next Big Thing?
However, we simply don’t know what that next big thing is—and certainly, many venture capitalists and investors would love to know what it could be. We don’t know what might replace Facebook, but it is likely clear that we do know what won’t dethrone the former Twitter.
“Mastodon, Bluesky, nor Threads will kill Twitter,” York said. “But rather it will be a new category that disrupts the entire industry.”