Twitter just made it harder to figure out how many inactive users it has

Twitter has stopped disclosing the percentage of its users who take “no discernable user action” on the app, making it harder for observers to figure out whether Twitter’s core user base is growing or dying.

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

In Q1 2015, Twitter reported 302 million monthly active users (MAUs), up 14 million from the quarter before. Business Insider previously reported that an independent analysis of Twitter’s core user-base showed that active users may actually be in decline, and that the number of people signed up for Twitter who don’t actually do anything on the app is growing. The general chatter around Twitter, among app developers and stock owners, is that Twitter’s user growth has all but ground to a halt.

The statistic describing users who don’t seem to be doing anything on Twitter was calculated from Twitter’s 10-Q filings with the SEC. Those disclosures have all (until now) shown the percentage of users who are only counted as “users” because another application they are logged into automatically pinged Twitter’s system, even if they didn’t do anything to generate the ping. In Q4 2014, that percentage was 8.5%, or about 25 million of Twitter’s roughly 300 million users.

Twitter has previously told Business Insider that these are real users who created Twitter accounts with real usernames and passwords, receiving Twitter content through third-party applications. They’re not bots or machines, they’re real people who want Twitter content. An example would be a screen lock app on a phone that receives a Twitter news feed without the owner having to open Twitter.

Twitter reported its Q1 2015 numbers on April 28, and filed its in-depth 10-Q analysis on May 11. But the new 10-Q didn’t give an update to the “no discernable user action” stat, as it usually does. Instead, the company repeated the number from Q4:

In the three months ended December 31, 2014, approximately 8.5% of users used third-party applications that may have automatically contacted our servers for regular updates without any discernable additional user-initiated action. 

It is not clear why Twitter didn’t update the number, or whether Twitter has stopped reporting the stat permanently. A couple of years ago, Twitter told investors that it expected the percentage of inactive users to decline. Instead, it rose, to a high of 11.5%. In Q2 2014 Twitter changed the definition of those users and reported a smaller percentage, 8.5%.

Disclosure: The author owns Twitter stock.

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