Instagram recently announced that it had a whopping 300 million monthly active users, but Twitter co-founder Evan Williams had a few things to say about that.
In essence, Williams thinks we shouldn't focus as much on user count as on the reach of the social media network.
"It's a question of breadth versus depth. Why is users the only thing we talk about? The crazy thing: Facebook has done an amazing job of establishing that as the metric for Wall Street," said Williams in an interview. "No one ever talks about, 'What is a [monthly active user]?' I believe it's the case that if you use Facebook Connect -- if you use an app that you logged into with Facebook Connect -- you're considered a Facebook user whether or not you ever launched the Facebook app or went to Facebook.com."
Essentially, Williams is saying that Facebook gets credit for people who don't actually use Facebook, while Twitter doesn't get credit for tweets that are seen off the actual Twitter website or the Twitter app.
"So what does that mean? It's become so abstract to be meaningless. Something you did caused some data in their servers to be recorded for the month," continued Williams. "So I think we're on the wrong path."
While Facebook's stock has risen 40 percent this year, Twitter's has dropped by around 42 percent. Despite this, 500 million tweets are still sent every day.
"If you think about the impact Twitter has on the world versus Instagram, it's pretty significant. It's at least apples to oranges," continued Williams. "Twitter is what we wanted it to be. It's this real-time information network where everything in the world that happens on Twitter -- important stuff breaks on Twitter and world leaders have conversations on Twitter. If that's happening, I frankly don't give a s--t if Instagram has more people looking at pretty pictures."
While it is unusual for Williams to lash out in the way he did, his words highlight a growing frustration by Twitter executives toward the fixation that many have on monthly active users.
Despite this, some suggest that Twitter's tweets being seen off Twitter isn't actually all that valuable compared with what Facebook gains from Facebook Connect. When Facebook Connect is used, Facebook is still able to gain information about the user and their behavior. Tweets being seen off Twitter cannot be monetized, meaning that in reality those tweets have less value, at least from a business standpoint.