Twitter is without a doubt one of, if not the fastest growing web application that we have seen. Just one year ago very few people were using or talking about it, and now it is all over the place, with mainstream celebrities joining it every day.
But how big is Twitter? How many user accounts are there?
That is a question that many have been asking, with no official answer yet.
One way that we have to estimate that number is based on the unique user ID that each account has. You can see that number by browsing over the URL of the RSS feed of a specific account.
Here is a screenshot of an account I created a couple of minutes ago:
But there is certainly a pattern on the user ID numbers.
Right after taking the screenshot I created three more accounts, and their respective user IDs were: 25,272,447, 25,272,534 and 25,272,591.
Each account was created around 10 seconds after the other, and as you can see by the numbers, between them we had 87 and 57 different IDs.
Were those 87 and 57 ID numbers new accounts being created by other users? Again we can’t say for sure. It all depends on how Twitter is handling the user ID assignment internally.
Here is a quote quote that I found from a person who analyzed the pattern:
I took some samples of the public timeline about a year ago and examined the unique user IDs. Although the pattern of ID assignment changes, in the early days at least Twitter would alternate between from sequential to non-sequential, with the latter being in increments of 10.
So the first 13,753 were sequential, followed by a run up to 754363 where they likely incremented by 10s. At 754439 they again went to sequential until 824222, and at 824331 through 5281761 again incremented by 10s (last digit ending in 1). In my dataset from that period – which is not inclusive of all accounts – showed increments by 10s with the last digit ending in 2.
I strongly suspect that a respectable estimate would be to simply divide the maximum ID by 10.
According to that person, therefore, Twitter is using a mix of sequential and deca increments on the user IDs. He suggests dividing the total number of accounts by 10 to find an estimate. That would translate to around 2.5 million Twitter users as of today.
I think that perhaps dividing the total by number by 5 could yield a better estimate, putting the mark at 5 million users.
Do you think that number is about right? Do you have other information that we can use to refine that estimation?