MeWe, founded in 2016, provides an advertisement-free alternative to Facebook that has an increased focus on user privacy and does not have heavy-handed censorship.
MeWe’s Android app has been one of the top ten most downloaded free apps, from Google Play Store, in America for the past week. All while the Twitter and Facebook apps have dramatically declined in daily downloads. Twitter is usually ranked between 15th and 30th place. From January 14th – January 16th, Twitter’s app failed to make the top 50. The Facebook and Facebook Messanger Apps have also declined greatly in download popularity. This data comes from App Annie, which is tracking download from Google Play. (Unfortunately, App Annie has been experiencing problems tracking Apple Store downloads and is not showing recent data.)
Alexa ranks website traffic by collecting data from browser extensions. Scores are based on a rolling average that factors both unique views and pageviews.
Today Alexa ranked MeWe as the 509th most popular website in the USA. While it was 81st in Hong Kong and 539th in Taiwan. Alexa has ranked MeWe as one of the top 100 websites in Hong Kong for three days now.
Hong Kong is the first place where MeWe became a big-league website due to fears that Facebook was cooperating with the Chinese government to squash dissent.
In 1997, the British government relinquished control of Hong Kong. Portugal also relinquished control of Macau two years later. Both areas became “Special Administrative Regions of China” with special rules to govern them. These rules were the result of twenty years of negotiations. Hong Kong was to retain its special status until 2047 and Macau until 2049. Fifty years after the official handover of each.
The Hong Kong Basic Law says that “The socialist system and policies shall not be practiced in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years.” However, China does not want to wait that long and has been trying to erode Hong Kong sovereignty at a fast pace. This has spurred massive, sometimes violent, protests in Hong Kong.
As protests got more intense, Facebook began banning groups and pages related to them. There were also fears that Facebook could provide the Chinese government with intel on protesters. In 2016, the New York Times accused Facebook of indirectly providing the Chinese government with sensitive data since 2010. In May of 2020, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook could cease to operate in Hong Kong unless they came to an agreement with the Chinese government.
The core issue is that Facebook uses Chinese tech companies because of how cheap computer engineers in China will work. These tech companies have access to sensitive data in order to provide services to Facebook. Several of these tech companies have close working relationships with the CCP dictatorship. Facebook does not even operate its social media platform in mainland China, because the Chinese government does not allow it.
In November of 2020, people in Hong Kong began to migrate from Facebook to the then-obscure MeWe in huge numbers. The popularity of MeWe in Hong Kong has continued to grow each day.
On January 9th, MeWe was ranked the 745th website in the USA by Alexa, and it was ranked over 1,000 a few days before that. This is a very dramatic movement. Once a website is ranked this high, any further increase represents exponential increases in traffic, not linear. For example, going from the 1,000th most popular US website to the 500th, is not a two-fold linear increase in traffic. It is probably closer to a twenty-fold increase or even more.
Below, we see a graph of how Alexa ranks MeWe worldwide. The site first began surging in worldwide popularity on Nov 8th. Then it leveled out in December. January 9th marks the beginning of a new surge that is even more dramatic.