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I don't always share statistics about Google+. But this one, I'm allowed to repeat.

As +Vic Gundotra said in his share, "That is a lot of ghosts. :-)" 

Stay ethereal, my friends.
 
Google+ grows to become 2nd largest social platform globally

Wow, that was quick! Like I had said before it was only a matter of time! It's also interesting to note the decline in Chinese based social media sites...

Google+, who despite being branded a failure or ghost town by large portions of the media, grew in terms of active usage by 27% to 343m users to become the number 2 social platform. Interestingly for Google, YouTube (not previously tracked by us as a social platform) comes in at number 3, demonstrating the immense opportunity of linking Google’s services through the G+ social layer. This is also a key indication of why Google+ integrated with the Google product set is so key to the future of search and the internet. We’ve got more coming on Google+ later this week as well.

Source: +GlobalWebIndex 
Link: http://goo.gl/hgU4k

#Google+
cc: +Sergey Brin +Louis Gray +Natalie Villalobos +Brian Rose +Eric Schmidt +Vic Gundotra 
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Yonatan Zunger's profile photoCraig Froehle's profile photoChristophe Bobda's profile photoCharlie Hoover's profile photo
76 comments
 
I would add...
Apparently this one does not include mobile data.
Vic Gundotra8:37 PM+11
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+Eli Fennell we have published our numbers last year. If you graph our published numbers for the past year you get a fairly accurate picture of where we are. We make no comments on third party research. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they fail to include things like mobile. 
https://plus.google.com/u/0/+VicGundotra/posts/PLL6cqwoWRp
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+Yonatan Zunger FWIW, I still think your definition of "active" is both inadequately clear and fairly deceptive.

Not that your competitors' isn't likewise, of course, but still.
 
More important things in life ...is there not lol
 
Well much like a zombie, I come here for the brains...=)
 
+Sai NB that this is a third-party study, not our own data. (Although I can't quite figure out what their definition of activity is, or their methodology; but their numbers seem to be in the right general ballpark relative to our internal numbers)

As far as our definition, we've basically tried to keep it in sync with the definition used by other people in the field. I agree that it isn't the best definition ever, but at least it makes cross-comparisons meaningful.
 
+Yonatan Zunger definitely. I used to work for a company that actively manipulated third party polling on purpose.
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+Yonatan Zunger I'd like to know what their methodology is, then — and for that matter, how they got the data, since I presume you don't give them database access.

I agree that at least your definition makes cross-comparisons meaningful, but it's still comparing between mutually inflated numbers, which I think is fundamentally deceptive.
 
+Sai I'm assuming they do it the way most internet survey companies do, which is to monitor web traffic by various means – involving cookies, toolbars, or what-not. But one can probably find out.
 
+Sai BTW, we actually use a much wider variety of numbers internally, which I would describe as very honest metrics, but we don't publicize our full internal analytics.
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I look at that graph, and I wonder: Orkut still exists?!
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+Yonatan Zunger Yeah, I know the latter. I think it's a shame though that you don't publicize the more honest metrics and force your competitors to do the same.
 
Does this include people who are surprised to find out that they have a Google+ account even though they didn't specifically create one?
 
+Sai It's a lot easier to do that if you're doing it from a market leader's perspective.
 
+Ron Echeverri I don't know exactly what this company's numbers count, but they seem to be talking about 30-day actives on the site, which is roughly the metric that everyone is using. 

I actually don't think that this number is particularly deceptive. It counts 30DA's of people who visit any part of G+ — the stream, the notifications in the sandbar, etc. 
 
+Sai first I'm terribly sorry about the Boston incident. No one should have to go through that.
Secondly, I don't understand your comment. We publish our active user count for google+ users in several ways. First we publish google+ users who are logged in and active all across google. (Making local reviews, making comments in google play, using handouts from gmail, etc).

We also publish numbers which are active users just in the plus.google.com property - in other words they are visiting and engaging in the stream. We don't count active users who use plus one button on third party sites (unlike some others in the industry). So we are leading by being more transparent than anyone else. 
 
Thank you for the details +Vic Gundotra.It is so refreshing to see management engaged in their product.
 
+Vic Gundotra You seem to be hinting around.  I'm getting the impression these are maybe numbers you've been wanting to report but haven't got there yet through whatever channels approve these things.
 
This is great news, but I still know very few people IRL who are regulars on G+. And, to be honest, that's not all bad. ;-)
 
I have 14k people circling me and no evidence that more than maybe 20-30 are real people. I wonder what metric makes a user appear active. Since G+ is so tied into a bunch of stuff that nearly every Google user is involved with I can't help but think there's a high chance that users are "touching" the service but never really using it.
 
+Craig Froehle At this point, I know quite a few people in person who are regulars on G+ — not least because I keep meeting such good people here, and then becoming friends with them. And that's not bad at all. :)
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+Vic Gundotra Thanks for your support. Pointing lawyers my way would be appreciated. ;-)

+Yonatan Zunger & I have previously discussed what you count as "active" users in your publicly released data. I think it's an overcount of who actually uses Google+ per se.

Right now, you essentially force anyone with a Google account (especially new signups) to get a G+ account as well. That's fine; market leverage and all that. But just because they have a pro forma account and see the notification bar, or +1 something somewhere, doesn't mean they're really an active user of G+. 

I would define "active on G+" as including things like posting on G+ or posting comments on others' posts.

I would consider users who only view their stream, follow people, etc., but don't actually engage to be "passive users", not active.

Google Play comments are not G+ usage; they're Play usage with G+ being used as the comment mechanism. Reviews aren't G+ usage either; they're Google Places / Reviews, that's a separate product. :-P Etc. Basically, I think you're fluffing your numbers.

In fairness, I think +Yonatan Zunger is right that your competitors are fluffing their numbers too. I wouldn't consider "anyone who clicks 'like' somewhere" an "active Facebook user" either. ;-)

To be pretty blunt, the accusations of G+ as a ghost town boil down to two things: G+ posters, and commenters thereon. Those aren't the numbers you're releasing, so it's not really an effective counter to those claims.

I think that you have the opportunity to get ahead of this publicly if you wanted to — if you were to publish honest numbers, along with very simple and clear methodology, you would force Facebook et al to do the same or risk being seen as less honest. It'd be the moral high ground.
 
Well, +Yonatan Zunger...you do work at Google. ;-)

That said, yes, I've met in person some that I've met first here on G+, but the opposite is still fairly rare.
 
+Ambar Orkut still exists. Mostly used by Brazilians, by my recollection.

+Zachery Jensen My suspicion is that much of the meaningful traffic is from places without total Facebook saturation -- social networks are, after all, networks, and network effects can be expected. The first-party metrics from Google aren't broken out by country (and therefore seem a bit off) but if you look at high-interaction, low-follower accounts, they're largely from outside the anglophone world. 

A significant proportion of the English-language traffic seems to be SEO-related, and thus basically of no usefulness to anyone. Follower-seeking seems to be a useless behavior, as it seems to end up with lots of noise with very little signal.
 
I haven't met any ghosts here, that I know of.
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+Greg Slocum "Why don't G+ & YT play well together" to me makes me think first & foremost of commenting culture, not of tech compatibility. ><
 
I just seem to be observing a huge gap between active and passive usage. I have 14k people circling me here and on a good day/image I'll maybe get 1500 views after a week, 15 +1's a share or two and a couple comments. On Flickr with only 115 contacts, a good day will bring me 83 views, 3-4 favorites and a handful of comments. That ratio seems to be more similar to what was going on during the earlier period of G+ launch.

So at least from my perspective it seems like people are either dropping their participating and becoming entirely passive or they aren't even really using the service but somehow appearing in metrics that make it look like they're active, like accidental clicks (given the location of things, doing that once a month is hardly a low chance occurrence).

It seems that doing nothing more than loading any part of G+ once in 30 counts as being "active" but that's not really meaningful as a definition of active, imho.
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+Andreas Schou I remember the Brazilian invasion well. I had thought Orkut shut down around the time of Buzz. 
 
+Greg Slocum If I have any complaint at all about Google's services, it's the lack of integration. And I know they're working on that, so I am hopeful it'll come. But, I could use it now. For example, the other day, I got some public transit directions via Google Maps on my PC's  browser. There was no way to add those transit times and locations (e.g., bus 32 leaves from corner of X and Y at 3:15pm) into my calendar. I had to manually copy and paste everything, which took several minutes. During that time, I just kept wondering "Why don't you have an 'add to Calendar' button???" Sharing with G+ is quite a bit easier in many cases, but the overall connectivity among Google properties seems a bit haphazard and unplanned.
 
+Andreas Schou If said follower-seeking is primarily a trait of Anglophone users, do you have any theories as to the reason? Are services like Facebook or Twitter which have embraced and engendered, intentionally or not, "popularity contest" approaches to interaction and defining "success" in using social networks heavily weighted toward Anglophone users? Might it be related to user saturation among a population? Or, more cynically, to English being a dominant global language and thus the communication method of choice for spammers? 
 
Thanks +Yonatan Zunger Google is just about the most integrated and seamless service I have seen to date. I do not disagree +Craig Froehle we have a long way to go but this is the best service I have seen yet!
 
The fact that Weixin (WeChat) isn't listed is a huge knock to the credibility of this study in my eyes. They just passed 300 million users and although it is mobile/tablet only, it shares many of the same social features as other web platforms.
 
+Zachery Jensen Speaking just from my own experience, I find that when I have too many people circled, a considerable amount of content gets lost in the stream firehose. I'm working on reorganizing my circles to try to improve the situation, but I suspect that the lack of response you describe may be largely due to people without the time or inclination to actively manage their circles having circled you and subsequently lost track of your posts because they default to the "All Circles" stream. I do that myself, and even with a relatively small number of circlees (probably 300-350 active users), I find myself simply unable to keep up with the content.

The lack of interaction may, ironically, be a result of users being too involved - or, at least, spreading themselves too thinly to be able to interact meaningfully with everyone they've circled. 
 
+Christina Talbott-Clark It's entirely possible. Though interestingly, as I've pared down my own list of people circled, the amount of content coming through my streams dropped off a lot faster than I expected. Down to 203 people circled, and it's not uncommon to get less than 10 new posts in a day. More evidence of a largely passive audience, perhaps.
 
+Zachery Jensen Crikey. We must be circling a rather different set of users. I could easily hit 10 posts a day (at least) with only five or ten of my circlees. I think some of them live on here. 
 
+Greg Slocum Yes, I do spend a lot of my time in communities, and that can help with stream overload and with increasing interaction.

I'm not sure what you mean about promoting communities, though. What am I missing?
 
+Christina Talbott-Clark Well I did cut out a number the noisiest people but it was mainly because I wasn't really interested in what they were posting. So, it could be said I've been picky. But still, 200 is a lot of people to follow (at least, I think it is) and only have a few new things a day.

Funny thing is, usually 15-20% of what I see is from +Yonatan Zunger :)
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+Greg Slocum Isn't that what private communities are for?
 
It really depends on who is posting. Some people are more active than others. I am probably in the group that is more active since I know +Christina Talbott-Clark reads my posts. 
200 is also a bit on the low site if it is not the right type of poster. I imagine this follows the regular rules of public forums...only a small % post publicly regularly. That does not mean they are not active. 
I am in that small percentage, but I am kind of on the vocal side of things.
 
+Christine Paluch Oh, that's right! I was completely forgetting that so many people post limited as a matter of course!

I started posting publicly as a result of a campaign encouraging more public posts from users (I've no earthly idea whose idea it was; it's been too long). Perhaps a similar campaign, encouraging people to post to communities rather than targeted circles with special-interest posts, and post the more general-interest items publicly instead of limited, would shake things loose a bit more. 
 
I probably need to find some time to trawl the community circuit. After all, groups are the main reason I log into Facebook all the time. I do wish Communities weren't such a pain to participate in, particularly if posting images (DDDDUUUUPPPPLLLLIIIICCCCAAAATTTTIIIIOOOONNNN SSSSUUUUCCCCKKKKSSSS).

It sure makes a lot more sense than topical circles, though.
 
Agreed! It's generally been quite positive.  G+ is like the inverse of facebook for me: I get to connect with cool people I don't know and discover things I never knew I'd like!  
 
I agree, +William Carter. I think that's what makes G+ special - it's more like a community in the geographical sense than other online groups I've been in. G+ is a small town. You can stroll down the street and just wave hello to people on their porches, or go over for a quick chat, or invite them to dinner or be invited in turn. There are people here I "see" every day, some I see occasionally, and some I will probably never run into, but I met nearly all of the G+ users I know right here on G+. I've met people I would never have encountered otherwise, and my life is richer for it. 
 
The user discovery here is already very rich; I imagine that as the communities settle in and grow more features, that'll only get better.
 
If google somehow bolted youtube and google+ together they'd be in an extremely strong position. (I realise they are linked to some degree already). 
 
I am active on G+, but I have 2 ghosts who bobbed up because I have 3 GMail accounts. I prefer to circle the Dunbar number, and separate out the quiet, the noisy, and the new.
 
I am circled by almost 23.000 profiles. Obviously, they do not all provide feedback on my posts - but it is striking how fast people give feedback when I post something which interests them and it is striking how much feedback a post can get when it is of general interest and about a popular subject. All of this gives the impression that there are a lot of active people here but that they are extremely selective about when they give feedback - which certainly matches how I use G+ myself. I tend to spend a lot of time browsing through tons of posts and only stop to give feedback if the post satisfies a number of quite demanding criteria. It takes a lot of effort to let go of the ambition to read everything here and slow down to engage properly. In short: I'm absolutely positive that the major reason for what some people here perceive as lack of feedback and, thus, a low number of active users is simply that people are too busy trying to keep up with the insane amount of material here
 
I'm amazed by the total size of the Chinesse social platforms. Probably people have account in 3 or 4 of them so the total number would be lower if there was a clear leader.

don't you think that Google + is getting so huge by simply pushing (a lot) Gmail users to become members ? 
 
My sense is that our definitions of "Ghost Town" overlap and diverge from person to person. Although I've spent obscene amounts of time on Google+ over the last year or so, at times I have felt that way for reasons +Craig Froehle mentioned. I like meeting new people but it would be nice to see a few faces I'm familiar with from my own life outside G+.

I have no family, buddies, clients or colleagues using G+. However, just this past week the university my wife teaches at decided to use Google+ for all their collaboration including video conferencing through hangouts. This isn't just Drive and Gmail sharing through G+ but organizing ongoing discussions. That also doesn't include her collaborative grant projects who are also making moves to use G+ exclusively.

Now, all of a sudden, I know at least a few dozen people off the top of my head who will be actively using Google+ in the next few weeks. While it may not be my work/friend circles and neither of us have family here, it's a big jump from just a month ago.
 
I think +Jannik Lindquist is spot on. I've seen the same thing with my own posts - every now and again someone responds to a post and I think: oh, so you do read my stuff? People will read quietly until they see something that they choose to comment on. I read lots of posts without commenting - it depends on stuff like: do I feel I have something to contribute to the discussion? do I feel comfortable enough with this person to try talking to them at all? am I too tired/too hungry to articulate my thoughts? do I feel this post comes with an expectation of witty replies and I'm all out of wittiness right now? etc etc etc. I don't think it's so easy to separate out active use from passive use here on plus - I think most of us do a mixture of both all the time.
 
ooh, does that make it a Ghost Megalopolis now?
 
I think it is great since a lot of people left Google to work at Facebook.
 
+Greg Slocum We are very, very aware of the deficiencies in the UI, especially in the mobile experience – and look forward to making it a whole lot better.
 
+Greg Slocum There's a useful hack for the iOS app: post a comment containing nothing but a space. It errors out and doesn't post, but it takes you to the bottom of the comment thread. 
 
+Tom Smith, CEO of GlobalWebIndex, did add some additional information in the comments of the original post. Apparently they will also release more detailed information on the Google+ stats on the Monday post.
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+Diana Studer Now I am visualizing the +1 button as G+'s version of social grooming, and giggling inordinately.
 
My stream has been growing steadily with a very high level of activity
 
Comparing node count is interesting, comparing edge count is more interesting.
 
Hi I am the founder +GlobalWebIndex I notice a few questions on methodology from +Yonatan Zunger and others.

We employ a survey methodology that we collect four times a year from a representative sample of internet users aged 16-65 in 31 markets. They collectively make up just over 90% of global internet population.

It is different to passive data collection methods such as tracking, cookie measurement etc which tend to be focused on visits to URLs and is increasingly difficult to employ accurately as users become more multi device and use applications over browsers.

We use our data to generate universe estimates on user base and benchmark frequently. In the case of account ownership and active usage, we are device agnostic asking the question regardless of whether using PC, mobile or tablet.

We also ask questions on actions and behaviour by device and will be releasing more data today on our +GlobalWebIndex page. There are some very interesting data points on the growth of contribution among active G+ users. Any more questions send them over
 
Hi - our definition is "used or contributed in the last month". We also ask about 24 behaviours that active users have done in the past month on PC V mobile V tablet. There are some very interesting (and large) growth trends for key behaviours on G+ v FB. Will go up on +GlobalWebIndex shortly 
Sai
 
+Tom Smith What counts as "used or contributed"? What behaviors specifically are included? (Note how +Yonatan Zunger / +Vic Gundotra & I have a disagreement above about what "activity" should really count in honest reporting.)
 
+GlobalWebIndex Why the omission of Weixin (WeChat)? Because it's a mobile-only platform? At (a claimed) 300 million users, its absence is suspicious.
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