Bitly, the popular URL-shortening service, released a graphic visualization of the world's social networking site usage this week. The interactive graphic, which includes international favorites such as Weibo and Renren (China), Ameba (Japan), and Odnoklassniki (Russia), also offers unexpected insight into how internet users worldwide connect with friends and follow the news. Iranians love to follow American websites such as LinkedIn and Google+. Chinese users mostly use local websites, and is the one country in the world where China hasn't gained a toehold. Meanwhile, South Koreans love Tumblr—and use it at rates far exceeding the United States.
The study, published on programming repository (and quasi-social network) Github, tracks clicks worldwide to sites shortened through Bitly's servers. "We sampled our data twice per month in 2012, then counted up how many clicks came from each country and social network. Adding all this up gave us a Bitly-wide breakdown of the social network traffic we see," said Bitly chief scientist Hillary Mason in a blog post.
One of the biggest surprises from the study is the failure of Chinese websites to penetrate other Chinese-speaking lands. Popular mainland-based social networking sites such as Weibo have relatively low adoption rates in Hong Kong and Taiwan; Taiwanese users mostly ignore both Weibo and Twitter in favor of Tumblr, which is extremely popular locally.
Tumblr, meanwhile, is the most-clicked on international social network in South Korea by a longshot. In the United States, Pinterest is the website most likely to be clicked on through Bit.ly-shortened links. The study isn't perfect of course. Only traffic routed through Bitly is counted and some popular country-specific social networking services such as South Korea's Cyworld aren't included. This methodology resulted in some surprising results—such as the vibrant Portuguese-language social networks in Brazil largely falling off the map.
Inside Iran, it seems that internet users see social networking sites as a way to access foreign news and job opportunities instead of for casual communication. Google+ is Iran's most popular social network by far (and the country with the highest Google+ usage rate worldwide), with LinkedIn and Reddit serving as close runners up. Iran's social media scene seems dominated by American social networks, with the exception of Chinese site Douban—which is almost as popular as Reddit.
Meanwhile, internet users in the former Soviet Union prefer Russian-based sites such as Odnoklassniki and Vk, but use American and Japanese web services at nearly identical levels. In former Soviet republics such as Kazakhstan and Lithuania, users seem as happy to use American services like LinkedIn as its Russian competitors.