Facebook apps dominated this decade's mobile market

The Facebook app as seen on a smartphone in somebody's pocket

The most downloaded apps of the last decade have been revealed – and the top four are all now owned by Facebook.

According to the analysts at App Annie, the most downloaded apps globally from 2010 until now are Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram. WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion, while Instagram was bought in 2012 for $1 billion.

"Looking at the most downloaded apps of the decade, Facebook has dominated the mobile space representing the four most downloaded apps of the decade with Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram," said App Annie market insight manager Adithya Venkatraman in a blog post. "Communication and social media apps are consumer favorites, accounting for seven of the top 10 apps by downloads this decade."

The figures may add fuel to the fire for regulators, amid calls to break up Facebook's dominance in the market — or at least stop it hoovering up more rival apps. Indeed, Facebook is being investigated by US authorities over antitrust concerns, with reports suggesting the Federal Trade Commission could use an injunction to block the company from moving forward with plans to more closely link its various messaging apps, as such code sharing would make it difficult to break up the company in the future, should it be deemed necessary by regulators.

The Facebook apps were followed in the rankings by Snapchat, Skype and TikTok. The latter was one of two apps in the top ten, along with the UC Browser by Alibaba, that were released by Chinese companies instead of American ones. TikTok's inclusion in the list is particularly impressive given that it was only released in 2016.

While Facebook has the most downloads, it doesn't necessarily make the most money in the mobile market. According to App Annie, the top apps by consumer spend over the last decade were Netflix, Tinder and Pandora. Still, Facebook has increased its revenue from mobile which now makes up 94% of the company's advertising revenue, according to the company's third quarter results. That's a far cry from 2012, just after the company went public, when investors worried about the company's inability to make money from mobile users.

While Facebook has found success with advertising on Instagram, it's still looking for ways to earn revenue from WhatsApp, in particular by charging businesses that use the app to contact customers.

Facebook aside, the App Annie stats highlighted that the past decade has been all about mobile, and that looks set to continue. "This decade has been a time of remarkable growth for the mobile economy," added Venkatraman. "With a 5% increase in downloads, and 15% growth in consumer spend... year-over-year in 2019 this looks set to continue in 2020."