• Noto says it's more people, `depending how you look at it.'
  • His measure includes people who see tweets without logging in

Twitter Inc. has been slammed by investors since its initial public offering for slowing user growth. On Wednesday, Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto tried a new defense: Comparing Twitter to the world’s largest social network.

In fact, Twitter’s audience may surpass Facebook Inc.’s 1.49 billion users, “depending how you look at it,” Noto said at a Deutsche Bank AG technology conference in Las Vegas.

His comments marked a change from earlier remarks. In July, for example, Noto told investors that the social media company’s growth wouldn’t dramatically improve until it reaches a mass market. In the second quarter, Twitter’s monthly active users for its main application increased by just 2 million from the prior quarter, to 304 million.

Noto on Wednesday said Twitter has a much bigger audience if you consider those who view tweets without logging into Twitter, or who get to tweets through Web search engines or see the 140-character postings on news sites and on television. The company has explained before how to think about its larger audience, but this is the first time an executive has directly compared Twitter to Facebook.

“They only have that 1.4 billion to report -- there’s no other number,” Noto said, referring to the fact that Facebook users access the service mostly through its application and website -- postings don’t usually appear elsewhere. “We have other audience numbers that no one talks about. If you add them up, it’s a big number. In fact, in some scenarios, you could argue that it’s bigger.”

Noto said he understands that investors don’t focus on Twitter’s wider audience because the company isn’t making money off it. But with new initiatives like Project Lightning, which will make it possible for people not logged into Twitter to tune into events, Twitter could start to make those broader numbers more meaningful.

Noto didn’t give an update on the company’s audience outside Twitter’s main application. And he didn’t address the fact that Facebook also owns Instagram, which has more than 300 million monthly active users; WhatsApp, with more than 800 million users; and Messenger, with more than 700 million.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE