Instagram’s newest 100 million users, which it gained in the past nine months, propel the app well ahead of Twitter TWTR -3.85%, at 316 million monthly active users. It also makes the $1 billion Facebook paid for Instagram in 2012 look like a steal.
Instagram is poised to deliver a powerful shot in the arm for Facebook. Research firm eMarketer recently estimated that Instagram’s ad revenue will reach about $1.5 billion in 2016 and $2.8 billion in 2017. This year, eMarketer forecasts Instagram’s global ad revenue will be $600 million.
Instagram said more than 75% of its users now live outside of the U.S. The surge in Instagram’s global user base is well-timed for the app, which is rapidly growing its ad presence worldwide, expanding to more than 30 new countries earlier this month. Instagram also recently significantly bolstered its ad offerings after testing ads on the platform for the first time two years ago. The company’s push into advertising is causing it to compete more and more with Twitter for ad deals as well as eyeballs.
Of Instagram’s 100 million newest members, more than half live in Europe and Asia, and the countries contributing the most new users are Brazil, Japan and Indonesia. More than 80 million photos are shared on the service every day, up from 70 million in June. Former athletes David Beckham and Caitlyn Jenner are a few celebrities to recently join the app.
“When Instagram launched nearly five years ago, 400 million seemed like a distant dream,” the company said in a blog post. “Now, we continue to strive to improve Instagram — helping you experience the world through images and connect with others through shared passions.”
Instagram has long been on the radar of Twitter, which tried to buy the app in 2012 before Instagram sold to Facebook. Even so, Instagram’s popularity should scare the microblogging site, which has been struggling to add new users and simplify its service. Twitter’s interim CEO Jack Dorsey, who is also the CEO of mobile payments company Square, said in July that the social network hasn’t been making bold product changes quickly enough, citing a lack of discipline within the company, as well as the need to better rally employees internally around the same vision.
Twitter recently unveiled plans to hand-curate live events coverage in a project called Lightning, expected to roll out later this year. However, Twitter might already be late to the game. In June, Instagram launched new live events features on its Explore page, a move that challenges Twitter as the source for tracking real-time conversations and trends. Twitter is generally known as a source for news, and Instagram is has been viewed as a more personal social platform. However, the apps’ differences are becoming increasingly blurred as Twitter becomes more visual and Instagram focuses more on events. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t shied away from presenting Instagram as a competitor to Twittercalling Instagram in July “one of the best places to get a real time snapshot of the world.”
Kevin Systrom, who cofounded Instagram with Mike Krieger in 2010, got kudos from his boss, who took Systrom for a walk on the roof of Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters.
“Congrats to Kevin, Mike and the entire Instagram community on reaching another big milestone,” Zuckerberg said Tuesday in a Facebook post. “Kevin and I celebrated the moment by going for a walk on our roof to talk about the future of Instagram. I’m excited for the journey ahead.”
Instagram is one of a handful of Facebook products that have seen impressive growth this year. Facebook’s messaging service Messenger, grew to 700 million monthly active users in June, up from 600 million in March. Messaging app WhatsApp, which Facebook acquired for $19 billion in 2014 and is especially popular overseas, boasts 900 million monthly active users. Facebook hasn’t yet tried tapping into the revenue potential of Messenger and WhatsApp. However, Instagram is a useful testing ground for Facebook that should help inform how it monetizes its messaging apps.
Unfortunately for Twitter host of other young, social apps are giving Twitter a run for its money. Messaging apps Snapchat and Kik and video app Dubsmash are also growing quickly, emphasize video-sharing and target millennials.