How Bad Can Twitter's Growth Numbers Be?

We savor the irony when tech giants -- which only exist because of people’s willingness to bare all (or at least babble ad nauseam) -- cry foul when a secret or two spills into the public sphere.

The joke is even better when we’re talking about a public company trying to suppress a little information that’s bound to get out, anyway.

That appears to be the case with Twitter, which is reportedly taking away data privileges from any developer who dares to disclose the size of the social network’s user base.

Of course, Twitter’s inability to grow its monthly active users (MAUs) is the reason why Wall Street continues to hold its stock at arm’s length.

Indeed, Twitter’s stock dropped from about $70 a share to just over $30 when the company's growth problem came out in its first quarter earnings report. During the first quarter, MAUs rose about 25% to roughly 255 million -- down from the 30% user growth that Twitter reported the previous quarter.

By eMarketer’s estimate, Twitter’s usership will grow from about 43 million U.S. consumers in 2013 to just 65 million in 2018 -- or about half of Facebook’s current domestic user base.

Rather than masking MAUs, it’s possible that Twitter is simply stepping up its own data resale business -- and dropping some uncooperative developers in the process.

A Twitter spokeswoman declined to comment on the report, on Tuesday.

Coming to Twitter’s defense, however, some Web watchers said cutting off disorderly developers is a smart move. “The potential for flawed orthogonal / third party analysis is detrimental on many levels,” tech consultant Jay Cuthrell tweeted on Monday. “A strong move by Twitter.”

More broadly, Twitter continues to promise more transparency. Beginning this week, for instance, advertisers will get access to a new “enhanced” dashboard, which should show how many times users engage with organic tweets.

Revealing MAUs, meanwhile, appears to be a different story.

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