Social Networking Companies and What They Own

When you log in to your favorite social media app, you may not realize some of the ways it is connected to other popular social media platforms. Globally, many of the top social networking services own (or are owned by) the same companies.

Investors looking to capitalize on the popularity of the latest social media trends may wish to keep this in mind. Take a closer look at some of the companies that own leading social media platforms and services around the world.

Key Takeaways

  • Some of the largest social media platforms in the world are actually subsidiaries of other companies.
  • Meta Platforms, which owns Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp, has the largest concentration of top social media platforms by active users.
  • Established tech giants such as Microsoft and Alphabet own prominent social media networks in addition to providing a range of other offerings.

Meta Platforms

Meta Platforms Inc. (META), formerly Facebook, owns and operates three of the top four social networking platforms by monthly active users (MAU) as of October 2022. It is likely best known for Facebook, which had 2.91 billion MAU as of Dec. 31, 2021, making it the largest social media platform globally by this measurement.

Meta also owns Instagram, the popular photo, video, and private messaging platform, as well as messaging apps Messenger and WhatsApp.

While Meta does not provide detailed information about MAU for these platforms, they are believed to be among the most-trafficked apps globally. CNBC reported in December 2021 that Instagram had surpassed 2 billion monthly users, while WhatsApp reached a reported 2 billion users in early 2020.

Tencent

Tencent Holdings Ltd. is a Chinese technology and entertainment holding company that owns a portfolio of social networking platforms that are popular throughout Asia. Of these, the largest by MAU is Weixin, also known in English as WeChat, which had nearly 1.3 billion MAU as of Sept. 30, 2022. WeChat is a messaging platform that also offers payment services and a host of other tools.

Tencent also owns QQ, an instant messaging and web portal service, which reported more than 574 million mobile-device MAU as of Sept. 30, 2022.

ByteDance

ByteDance is a Chinese tech giant best-known outside of Asia for the video-focused social media platform TikTok. TikTok, which has come under scrutiny by the U.S. government for its potential use in unauthorized surveillance operations, has more than 1 billion users visit the app each month.

ByteDance also owns and operates a number of other social media platforms that are available in China, including Douyin—an alternative to TikTok focused on the Chinese market—and content discovery and news aggregator Toutiao, among others.

Microsoft

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is a software, electronics, and hardware maker that is perhaps not best known as a social networking company, despite its prominence in the United States and abroad as one of the leading office software and tech firms. However, Microsoft owns some of the most popular networking companies for both personal and business use. These include LinkedIn, the professional networking platform that has more than 850 million users. Microsoft also owns video and voice communications platform Skype.

Alphabet

One of the primary offerings of tech giant Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) is YouTube. While not a conventional social media platform in the format as others mentioned, YouTube is a space in which content creators and audiences can come together to share entertainment and information. As of October 2022, there were an estimated 2.5 billion YouTube users worldwide.

Sina

Chinese technology firm Sina Corp. provides mobile and various online services. It also owns Weibo, a popular microblogging platform with roughly 584 million monthly active users as of September 2022.

Other Social Media Companies

There are a variety of other social media companies that maintain significant user bases, either regionally or globally, but either are private companies or are publicly traded companies without a parent or subsidiary social media platforms. These include Chinese video-sharing app Kuaishou, camera and social media platform Snap Inc. (SNAP), microblogging app Twitter, instant messaging service Telegram, content aggregator and discussion platform Reddit, and many others.

Who owns most social media platforms?

Some of the most popular social media platforms worldwide, including Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, are subsidiaries owned by other companies. In these cases, Meta Platforms owns Facebook and Instagram, while ByteDance owns TikTok.

Which social media companies are owned by Google?

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, owns YouTube, the video-sharing site.

Which social media platform has the largest user base?

In terms of number of monthly active users (MAU), Facebook is the largest social media platform globally. It had more than 2.9 billion users as of the end of 2021. However, some social media companies do not provide user data publicly, and others measure user activity in different ways (such as by daily active users), making direct comparisons difficult.

The Bottom Line

The ever-growing network of social media companies has shifted significantly since the industry first developed. Some of the major players in the space have been acquired by other companies, as when Meta Platforms (then Facebook) acquired Instagram in 2012. Other social media platforms are subsidiaries of different companies—consider the example of TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance. And still other social media platforms are private or have been taken private, such as when previously publicly traded Twitter was purchased and taken private by billionaire Elon Musk in late October 2022.

Article Sources
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  1. DataReportal (Kepios). “Digital 2022: October Global Statshot Report: The World’s Most-Used Social Platforms Chart.”

  2. Meta Platforms, via U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “Form 10-K for the Fiscal Year Ended Dec. 31, 2021,” Page 50.

  3. Meta Platforms, via U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “Form 10-K for the Fiscal Year Ended Dec. 31, 2021,” Page 7.

  4. CNBC. “Instagram Surpasses 2 Billion Monthly Users While Powering Through a Year of Turmoil.”

  5. WhatsApp Blog. “Two Billion Users—Connecting the World Privately.”

  6. Tencent Holdings. “Tencent Announces 2022 Third Quarter Results,” Page 3.

  7. Tencent Holdings. “Connecting Ecosystems: Consumers: Communications and Social,” select “Weixin/WeChat” icon for information pop-up.

  8. Congressional Research Service. “TikTok: Technology Overview and Issues,” Summary Page (Page 2 of PDF).

  9. DataReportal (Kepios). “TikTok Statistics and Trends.”

  10. ByteDance. “Our Products.”

  11. Microsoft. “2022 Annual Report,” Page 20.

  12. Microsoft Stories. “Microsoft Acquires Skype.”

  13. Alphabet, via U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “Form 10-K for the Fiscal Year Ended Dec. 31, 2021,” Page 4 (Page 5 of PDF).

  14. Weibo Investor Relations. “Weibo Reports Third Quarter 2022 Unaudited Financial Results.”

  15. Meta Newsroom. “Facebook to Acquire Instagram.”

  16. The New York Times. “Elon Musk Completes $44 Billion Deal to Own Twitter.”

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