15 social networks with the most active users in 2015

Social networks and their associated messaging apps are more popular than ever, but which are the most popular. We ranked the major players by monthly active users, and though the list includes the usual suspects, some lesser-known services also made the cut.

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Social media in 2015

Facebook owns and operates four of the top six social networks in the world based on monthly active users (MAU). Only two other social media services, both owned by China's Tencent, are even close to giving Facebook a run for its money. The following list details the year's most used social networks, and provides specific MAU numbers (where available).

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Facebook

Facebook was the first social network to surpass a billion members, and it closed the third quarter of 2015 with 1.55 billion monthly active users (MAU), including 1.39 billion mobile MAU. Facebook's daily active user numbers are also impressive, with 1.01 billion daily active users (DAU) at the end of the third quarter, including 894 million DAU on mobile. In fact, the social network continues to report impressive numbers across the board.

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WhatsApp

WhatsApp remains true to its original mission of building a simple messaging app that works across all mobile platforms, and relatively little changed within the app since it first launched in 2009. The messaging application surpassed 900 million MAU in early September, according to a post from the company's Cofounder and CEO Jan Koum on Facebook. When Facebook acquired the app for $21.8 billion in February 2014, WhatsApp had more than 450 million MAU.

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Tencent QQ

Messaging application Tencent QQ, commonly known as "QQ" or "QZone," had 860 million MAU at the end of the third quarter of 2015. Chinese firm Tencent Holdings Limited owns and operates the service, and the vast majority of QQ users reside in China and other Asian countries. QQ was first released in early 1999 as an IM app.

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Facebook Messenger

Facebook's Messenger standalone IM app was released in August 2011, but it didn't really catch on until the company forced its members to download the separate app dedicated to messaging in 2014. Facebook Messenger had 700 million MAU in early June, according to cofounder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg,100 million MAU of which joined the service during the 10 weeks leading up Zuckerberg's announcement.

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WeChat

WeChat, another app from China's Tencent, reported 650 million MAU at the end of the third quarter of 2015. Roughly 11 percent of WeChat's users were located outside of China at the end of the second quarter. The messaging app first became available in 2011, and it currently adds about 10 million MAU each month.

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Instagram

When Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion in April 2012, the photo-sharing app had about 27 million total registered users. Instagram announced it has surpassed 400 million MAU in September 2015, and 100 million of them joined the service during the nine months leading up that official statement. The app currently adds more than 10 million MAU each month.

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Twitter

Twitter has been criticized for its lagging user growth in recent days, but it remains one of the largest social networks on the planet. The company closed the third quarter of 2015 with 320 million MAU, and roughly 80 percent of those people access the service at least once a month on a mobile device, according to the company.

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Line

Line, a Japan-based messaging service, expects to have more than 700 million registered users by the end of this year. Line reported 212 million MAU in September 2015. In 2011, 15 engineers working for Korean search provider Naveer developed the app, and though it has since become its own separate service, Line remains a Naveer subsidiary.

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Sina Weibo

Sina Weibo, one of the most popular sites in China, is a sort of mashup of Facebook and Twitter. At the end of the first half of this year, the company said it had 212 million MAU, which represented a year-over-year increase of 36 percent. Mobile users made up 85 percent of the company's total MAU in June 2015, according to the company. Sina Weibo reached an average of 93 million DAU during that same month.

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Pinterest

Pinterest surpassed 100 million MAU in September, according to The New York Times, and the digital scrapbook continues to add more mechanisms for shopping and advertising.

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LinkedIn

LinkedIn says it closed the third quarter of 2015 with 396 million registered users, 100 million of which count as MAU. Within a few weeks of that official announcement, the professional social network surpassed 400 million total registered users.

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Viber

Viber, a messaging and VoIP app originally released in late 2010, closed the third quarter of 2015 with 249 million registered users and 100 million MAU. Rakuten, an ecommerce company based in Japan, acquired the service for $900 million in February 2014.

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Honorable mention: Skype

Skype, one of the earliest VoIP and video chat services, has not provided updated user numbers since 2014, so while it may have more MAU than other services placed above it in this ranking, the lack of clarity earns it an "honorable mention" in the list.

Skype had 300 million MAU in February 2014, according to a company blog post. At the time, Skype said it hosted more than a billion message or voice sessions each month, and its users spent as many as 2 billion minutes using Skype each day.

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Honorable mention: Google+

Google has not released numbers on its Google+ user base since late 2013, but the platform struggled mightily in recent years, and it also receives an honorable mention in this ranking.

Google reported 300 million MAU in October 2013 but has since declined to provide further specifics on its users. (The company also recently whittled down Google+ to highlight groups and topics.)

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Honorable mention: Snapchat

Snapchat, one of the earliest and most successful "ephemeral," or disappearing, message apps, evolved into a medium for live storytelling, with curated user video and produced segments from leading online publishers. The privately held company has been tight lipped on specific numbers, so instead of ranking higher, it too receives an honorable mention here.

The app is believed to have more than 200 million MAU, and Snapchat Cofounder and CEO Evan Spiegel said the company was "approaching 100 million daily active users in developed markets," during an interview in May.