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Google+ Reaches 50 Million User Mark in About 88 Days

Until a few months ago, there was widespread skepticism in the tech and investor community about Google's ability to "get social." Just last year, after the failure of Google Buzz and Google Wave, one of my favorite tech writers Pete Cashmore (Mashable) wrote:

"All of which must have Mark Zuckerberg rubbing his hands together in glee. While Google is one of the few companies large enough to build a significant social network, Google Wave's demise is further proof that these efforts (rumored to be called "Google Me") are destined to fail. Like Wave, Google Me will likely be a work of technical wizardry too advanced for us mere mortals to understand. . . . [S]hort of a miracle -- an acquisition of Facebook nemesis Twitter, perhaps -- Google won't become a socialite anytime soon."

But yesterday (give or take a few days) Google+ likely crossed the 50 million user mark. And since being opened to the general public (over age 18) last week, Google+ has been growing by at least 4% per day, meaning that around 2 million new users have been signing up each day.

I think that Pete's unexpected miracle occurred and Google is now a socialite. In my mind there is no doubt of that. Given this momentum, it is hard for me to imagine a scenario where Google+ doesn't end up with hundreds of millions of users. It's just a matter of time.

By integrating +1 and Circles (targeted sharing) and other Google+ functionality into its Chrome browser, Android phones (and tablets), Gmail, Google Reader, Blogger, Google Photos, and other properties, Google+ will give its more than one billion users repeated chances to sign up for and use the functionality of Google+. Like the Chrome commercials say, "the web is what you make of it." And with Google+, you can make so much more of it that ever before.

What Does This Mean For Facebook?
None of this is necessarily bad news for Facebook. Competition can make companies much better. Facebook has improved its functionality in the past few weeks by implementing changes inspired by Google+ (lists, longer posts and comments, the subscribe feature, etc.) At the same time, they have leaped forward in other ways with new features like Timeline and by partnering with music and media companies.

Competition is great. Even though they have been fiercely competing for decades, Apple is worth $367 billion and Microsoft is worth $209 billion. Both have huge impact worldwide. Facebook vs. Google will be no different. Customers will benefit as these two innovative tech companies try to empower users with the best social tools. Some people will choose one social network over the other and will evangelize their choice. Others will use both to communicate with different groups of people.

I think we are witnessing the most exciting battle in tech history as two well-funded, fast-growing, highly-profitable, genius-led Silicon Valley companies are competing from very different starting points to affect how we find information, how we connect with people, how we view the world, and how we spend our time. And unlike tech battles of the past which unfolded slowly as new hardware or software was "shipped" every few months, since these companies operate in the cloud, product changes happen almost daily, and the reactions from customers flow in real-time on Twitter, blogs, and on these two sites themselves.

Articles About How Google Was Failing With Social
■ CNET, Feb 2010, "Google Struggles With Social Skills" - http://cnet.co/nem8Xp
■ CNN Tech, Aug 2010, "Why Google Wave's Demise is Good for Facebook"
http://bit.ly/qR76Vt

Metholodogy

By counting how many Google+ users there are with hundreds of rare surnames, I can track the user growth over time, and also estimate the total number of Google+ users that have signed up so far. I have written several posts describing my methodology which you can find here: https://plus.google.com/117388252776312694644/posts/K9Qf1UVNyGy

Also, to give you a glimpse of how this works, attached is a graphic showing a small sample of my overall user count.

It is possible that my U.S. - non-U.S. ratio is off slightly, and it is possible that my 15% fudge factor for private profiles and for non-Roman characters could be way off. But I re-checked the data again this morning, and given Google's announcement of "over 10 million users" just 2 days after my model showed they had crossed that line, I find it hard to believe that my model could be off by more than 20%, in which case Google will hit the 50 million user mark in the next week or so. If I had more time and money to devote to this, there are several ways I could validate or improve my current estimates, but I can only spend so much time on this right now, unless someone out there wants to subsidize this research. :)

My model is going to break in the next couple of months as more and more of my rare surnames end up with more than 1,000 Google+ users, which is the maximum number of hits I am able to count for any given surname query. At that point, I have some ideas about how to work with a group of even more rare surnames, but my accuracy will probably be affected.

(Why would I continue to work on this? Well, for one reason, this project has led to a number of conversations with some very large investment funds who pay a lot of money for proprietary research and data, which may open up entirely new consulting opportunities for me in big data. Those conversations have been fascinating. When I started this project around the 4th of July, it was for the fun of it - to see if the model that I had devised would work. Sometimes fun leads to mon, which is pretty cool.)

Credits
Thanks to +Leon Håland for the growth comparison chart.
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72 comments
 
Do the numbers even matter anymore? G+ has settled into an amazing creative community, that we should cherish.
 
Thats great. Thanks for breaking the good news +Paul Allen. This is one important milestone reached in the long journey that Google+ has to undertake.
 
Congratulations on your leads with the investment funds! :)
 
I hope the Numbers will not destroy the Quality later ;-)
 
G+ has managed to lure the nerdiest 5% in very quick time indeed. The question now is: Do we want the masses to follow suit?
 
I question how they are counting G+ users. Are they one of the hundreds of millions of GMail users that just logged in to G+ one time and have posted nothing nor updated their profile and have no one in their circles? What qualifies as a user?
 
So Google's looking at 1 Billion users in 50 days?
 
Nice thanks for doing this is genuinely interesting. I am curious to see how these graphs will progress over the next couple weeks.
 
+Jay Gilmore When you use that level of scrutiny on Facebook it is also very telling. I know of a guy (he's Russian) who has over 40'000 Facebook accounts for instance.
 
They're probably just measuring accounts. It's still fairly accurate assuming all comparable measurements are handled the same way. 
 
I love to see this. I see a lot of non-tech folks signing up. Sadly I have also seen the first straight-up spam accounts start to appear.
 
All the nerds have come to google+ as a part of the novelty, and probably most will stay since it's so cozy. Anyway, the real battle is over the everyday user. Or else this will be google wave all over again.
 
Already seeing several average users joining, they're sick of all the App bullshit.
 
I can't tell from the charts. After the initial rush was there any slowdown or plateauing before being open to the public?
 
I think the way Facebook has started "updating" & "redesigning" its services is sign enough that G+ at the very least has qualified to be a considerable competitor :)
and thanks +Paul Allen for putting the effort & presenting it sooo nicely. :)
 
+Peter Kilsand Nerds? I have almost all my co-workers on Google+, many of whom are far from the definition of Nerd. Many of the them are even recently ex-facebook users. Your analysis lacks depth or objectivity.
 
+Paul Allen Thank you for your stats on G+ growth they have been fascinating.
If you extrapolate using the the 4% growth day on day you will get to 1.5 billion by the end of the year. I dont this would be very realistic.

If we say flat growth of 2m per day even then we are looking at somewhere in the region of about 230 million by the end of the year.

Finally if you say the growth starts tailing off to a million a day after the halfway point - even then you are looking at about 180 million by the end of the year.

However we look at it I think this has some real momentum now and Google+ is a credible competitor to Facebook. Add the constant stream of negative press that Facebook have been getting since F8 and we have a real interesting battle between these two giants now.
 
+Doug Tyrrell The growth was incredibly fast at first, then slowed, then took off even faster than before once Google+ was open to the public. It's still not completely open since you have to be at least 18 to join, and the sign up experience is more complex than many other sites. Google has a ton of levers they can pull when they really want to open the floodgates.
 
So, if the expansion isn't more exponential, but linear, we should see 3/4 of 1 billion in 1320 days (or roughly the same time it took FB to acquire 50 mil)
 
By all indications, at the end of the year, Google+ will grow by leaps & bounds as it expands into the higher ed space. Google is working feverishly to integrate G+ into the Google Apps suite. As did Facebook conquering the collegiate crowd 5 years ago (seems like a generation), so will G+ as it extends across the college campuses like weeds.
 
Leonardo, I'm gonna go ahead and assume that you convinced them to join. And that you're a nerd. Am I close?
 
+Steven G Exactly but I'd argue that 40,000 accounts that do something are more valuable than millions of "users" that don't. In any event these are numbers for justifications and back patting and when it comes down to it big numbers and fast growth sell to the media.
 
Perhaps wave isn't the most adequate comparison to google+ in every aspect. But since it were a google project and shared the same goal as google+, I still say the argument is just.
And yes, I defintitly did say that all 50 million google+ registered users are all nerds, including your mom and aunt +Leonardo Santos. :) you can quote me on that.
I forgot to thank +Paul Allen on a great article btw.
 
Paul, thanks so much for the update on Google+. It would not surprise me if they are at 50 million right now, and 100 million by year end.
 
+Paul Allen -- I sense your realization that G+ and Facebook have a mutually inclusive relationship -- contrary to what even they might think about one another -- at this stage in the game :-)

Both of these behemoths (via short term competitive pressures) have ushered in the Web's next interaction dimension i.e., the Web of Linked Data where every item of data is endowed with the following:

1. a hyperlink based Name (Identifier) -- a generic URI (that aesthetically looks like a URL but has a layer of indirection that makes it work like a resovlable Name)
2. structured data representation via an entity-attribute-value style directed graph
3. a hyperlink based Data Access Address -- a URL.

I have a detailed post about this at: https://plus.google.com/112399767740508618350/posts/6cqa1Sxk5KV -- What Facebook Can Teach Us about Bootstrapping Linked Data at InterWeb Scales .
 
I find it funny that G+ has this many users, and I can't find many people that have left Facebook for it. I like it but it's kind of useless when very few of my friends are on it.
 
+Jason Morais you need to invite your friends again. I have over 500 that all left and closed their facebook account during the invitation only period. Inevitably, Google+ will surpass facebook in users and most likely by next summer. Hopefully this will derail the facebook IPO and put Mark Smuckernerd in his place.
 
I stopped posting new content on FB, aside from the occasional Like or comment, when the new interface went live last week. All my new posting and sharing is strictly on G+.
 
+Jera Wolfe I agree with you and do not trust google 100%. I trust no one 100%.
 
+Paul Allen any chance of a Google Spreadsheet variant of this data? Basically, opening up the door to collaboration and contribution from others etc..
 
A) the premise of your statistics is dodge at best
B) how many of those users are ACTIVE? Facebook has billions upon billions of signups. But only counts active users. Your method does not account for this at all.
 
I'll do my own stats with my G+/FB friends ratio and now, well, let's say it's now 2%, with only 1% "active"...
 
I quit Facebook and deleted my account all my buddies like Google+ more especially me. Google makes only perfection Facebook is lame and boring.
 
Great post +PaulAllen.

So what is Google's "TImeline" to add real-time digital scrapbooking to G+? It's a soap opera...
 
how many social sites is enough?? Twitter for instant message, Linkedin for business, Myspace for music, G+ and Facebook both for all, so one of them will must be buried~~~
 
Google+ is all those sites combine into one plus more you only need Google account 
 
User signups isn't really the proper metric now anyway. Before, people weren't connected with all their friends online - so the amount of users mattered. Now due to Facebook everyone has almost literally everyone they know (under a certain age) on Facebook. It's a pointless metric now. Time on site is probably a better one, it'd show the reletive interest levels of each site a lot better than simple signups whilst also not really being affected by 'just getting going'. Any word of the comparisons there?
 
How did you make the bulleted text in this post?
 
I think that google+ will not be able to outperform facebook unless it finds means to turn all the googlers into google+ers.
 
I have to disagree that FB has "Improved" recently. The timeline changes are the main reason I have moved to G+ and I suspect the main reason why most others have done as well at this time. This more than exponential growth is because of FB getting worse not improving.
 
I now just want facebook users to come to G+ just so I can say "I told you so".
 
The logo between G+ and Twitter ... ? Is that MySpace? If yes, they managed to rise quickly -- obviously I did not even notice them -- otherwise I would know what their logo is. And where are they now?
 
I made a bet last week with a friend who is a "Social Media Consultant" that G+ would top 100M users by EOY. I won't even guess how much sooner that will happen. He said G+ probably isn't going anywhere. Guess it's time for him to look for a new job. :)
 
We Can Beat FB,,,,,,,,,..............,,,,,,,,...............!!!!!!!!!!!
 
Being a Mac user I wouldn't advocate that one platform has to lose in order for another to win but we need a single, unified, social networking platform. So in this case I say FB = FailBook. Let them be held accountable for mistreating the users as an example to Google to never repeat this mistake. :)
 
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Now just be so kind and let in Google Apps Users. I do not understand why they weren't given access right from the beginning in the first place, they are the most rabid users of Google's Services.
 
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+Paul Allen Just curious, will you be re-graphing your corrected numbers? Any guesses on how many of the estimated 43 million people who registered for Google+ stuck around to use it?

Look at the interaction statistics for Varina Patel's work vs. Jay Patel's, and either the additional 60,000 new G+ users who added him (compared to Varina) as 30 million people joined the site since September are still here but totally silent, or they largely came and left.
 
+Steven G Yes, the masses will flock to Google+ eventually. Usually, geeks and nerds are the early adopters of a technology just as the savvy adopt the latest trends in fashion first. Fact is that these early adopters are in fact the biggest influencers for the average person.

Also, these articles by +Robert Scoble and +Mike Elgan for related insights on this topic.

http://scobleizer.com/2011/07/01/why-yo-momma-wont-use-google-and-why-that-thrills-me-to-no-end/

http://www.datamation.com/networks/facebook-google-twitter-myspace-a-social-personality-test-1.html
 
great analysis, +Paul Allen . If you can propose a model that can calculate 'active users', then that would be even remarkable, though I think you did this for fun
 
All my friends says Facebook is much better than Google+....
 
It is not matter of being better... For reasons I don't know how to explain well, Fb looks warmer and more cosy to me. I don't believe the general public (my family at large, for example) will ever come to G+ (unless Fb does something really really wrong)
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