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Twitter keeps losing monthly users, so it’s going to stop sharing how many

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Twitter’s monthly user count has fallen for three quarters in a row, so to address the issue, Twitter has decided to stop announcing how many users it keeps losing.

The change, which begins after next quarter, was announced in Twitter’s latest earnings release, where the company disclosed that it had lost another 5 million monthly users during the final few months of 2018. That brings Twitter to 321 million monthly users, down from 326 million the prior quarter. It’s Twitter’s lowest user figure in two years.

Hiding monthly user growth or losses prevents Twitter from being directly compared to many other social networks, some of which are growing far faster in their monthly user count. Facebook, for instance, added 49 million users last quarter. It also hides a number that hadn’t been looking good for Twitter for a while. Even before the figure started declining, Twitter’s monthly user count had only seen creeping gains in the prior couple years.

In place of monthly users, Twitter will now disclose how many daily users it has — a figure that, at least from this initial disclosure, is at least slightly rosier. Twitter now has 126 million daily users, up from 115 million one year ago. Similar to monthly users, growth is slow in the US, with about 10 million users in that jump coming from other countries.

Other companies disclose their daily user count, but Twitter has put a small twist on its own metric: it’s referring to them as mDAUs, or monetizable daily active users. This figure only counts people who use Twitter’s website or app to access the service on a daily basis.

Twitter seems to be indicating that other companies do not distinguish between daily users who can and cannot be monetized. That said, it’s not entirely clear that other daily user counts are not largely, if not exclusively, composed of monetizable users since most other services don’t have the wide range of integrations and third party apps that Twitter does.

Snapchat this week reported having 186 million daily users. Instagram announced having more than 500 million daily users over a year ago.

So while the daily user figure does look better for Twitter, it isn’t exactly a sign of runaway success. It’s smaller than competitors’ daily user counts, and its growth rate has declined or stalled in three out of the last four quarters.

The monthly user decline is largely of the company’s own doing, Twitter has suggested in recent quarters. Twitter started losing users in the spring after cracking down on bots and spam. It also dropped SMS deals with carriers that covered the cost of receiving tweets via text, reducing the number of people who are likely to use the app without a smartphone.

This quarter, the company once again says user count was hurt by “by ongoing health efforts,” how resources were prioritized, and a further removal of spammy and suspicious accounts.

There’s an extent to which Twitter’s user count is really just being brought in line with reality here. If Twitter is primarily losing bots and spam, and even low-engagement text message users, this latest (and final) monthly user count may now better reflect how many real people are actually using Twitter than the count did at the start of last year.

Getting rid of bad accounts is ultimately a positive for Twitter. It means the platform is filled with more real users, and if it cuts down on bots spamming divisive or otherwise problematic content, it should make Twitter as a whole more welcoming to users.

Still, it’s not the direction any company wants to see its user numbers headed. Twitter is down a total of 15 million monthly users since the figure started declining last year

None of which paints the strongest picture of Twitter, at least in the short term. The company has long known that it ought to address widespread issues on the platform, like harassment, to improve the experience for users. It’s started to take action, but the changes have been small. And as a product, Twitter has iterated at a glacial pace, slowly testing out minor new features to boost engagement.

Twitter says it’s seen a 16 percent decline in abuse reports from the same quarter a year ago, and that its enforcement measures have been three times as effective. This year, Twitter says its goal is to “take a more proactive approach to reducing abuse” on the site. The company also plans to keep improving its sign up process so that it’s harder for people — presumably people who have been banned before — to sign up again.

Twitter also turned a profit again this quarter, for the fifth quarter in a row — and the fifth quarter ever. Investors aren’t pleased though, as Twitter’s projected earnings for next quarter aren’t as high as they’d hoped.

Correction February 7th, 8:10AM ET: Twitter will stop disclosing MAUs in Q2 2019, not Q1 2019, as initially stated.