If Google’s Really Proud Of Google+, It Should Share Some Real User Figures

Google+ now has 170 million users. Well, 170 million who have “upgraded” to Google+, whatever that means. It’s the latest in crazy numbers from Google. The people who actually do use Google+ as a social network deserve better than this PR spin. It’s time for Google to properly report their numbers, lest outsiders begin believing the “ghost town” moniker.

Do I sound tired? I am. We get numbers that aren’t numbers, and this from the company that once spent a month in crisis mode back in 2005 when competitor Yahoo claimed to have more web pages indexed than it did. Oh dear. We had to have much navel gazing about how exactly one should count what a web page was. In the end, Google effectively declared that counting pages no longer matter. The famous web page count in the Google home page was dropped.

Google seems somewhat desperate to show that its social network — sorry, its social layer — is a success, and so we get these slippery numbers that mean so little.

The Official Numbers So Far

Let’s recap the figures that Google has diligently reported since Google+ began:

  • July 2011: 10 million
  • October 2011: 40 million (30 million gain, 10 million per month)
  • January 2012: 90 million (50 million gain, 16.7 million per month)
  • April 2012: 170 million (80 million gain, 26.7 million per month)

I could make a little chart to show what skyrocketing growth is going on there, but why bother. The numbers don’t really mean anything, and it’s becoming absurd that Google keeps quoting them as if they do.

What’s A User?

When the 10 million figure came out last July from Google, there was some poking at it but not a lot of heavy examination of what exactly a “user” meant.

When the 40 million figure came out, more starting wondering about how exactly someone was counted as a Google+ user. As it turned out, anyone who had created a Google+ account got counted, whether they were actively using that account or not. As I wrote then:

How about the 40 million figure that Google released today. Those are simply the number of people who have signed up for Google Plus, the company tells me. It’s not an active user figure.

More accurately, it would be called the sign-up figure. Some of those will be active. Indeed, millions will have signed up within the past month, when Google+ opened to anyone. The mere act of signing up would make the active, at least for a bit longer. But not all of them.

What is the active user figure for Google Plus? That’s not something Google’s giving out, right now.

What’s An Active User?

Oh, you want active users? OK, Google seemed to say. When the next figure came out in Jaunary, about Google+ having 90 million users, we were treated to learning there was a 60 percent “engagement” rate among these people.

But wait, as it turned out, it’s not that those people are engaging on Google+ itself. Rather, they are people who have Google+ accounts who also do something within Google. From Page’s written comments in an investor call at the time:

I have some amazing data to share there for the first time: +users are very engaged with our products — over 60% of them engage daily, and over 80% weekly.

Over six months into its product, and Google was still dodging a fairly simple question. How many people actually use the Google+ social network itself. You know, like people use Facebook, logging in to read posts, see photos, comment on things or share? How hard could this be to answer, if Google really wanted to?

The Virtual Ghost Town

Google didn’t want to, not until a Wall Street Journal called Google+ a “virtual ghost town” compared to Facebook:

The Wall Street Journal calls you a ghost town? That demands action. Soon after, Google spilled some new figures to the New York Times in hopes of damage control:

About 50 million people who have created a Google Plus account actively use the company’s Google Plus-enhanced products daily, Mr. Gundotra said. Over a 30-day period, he said, that number is 100 million active users.

Excellent. 100 million active users of Google+. That’s crystal clear. If it’s frosted crystal, that is, because the NYT article went on:

Although these numbers sound impressive, the catch is that Google Plus-enhanced properties include YouTube, the Android Marketplace and Google.com, the company’s flagship search engine. Yet Google contends that these numbers illustrate that more than 100 million people have signed up for a Google Plus account and are now actively engaging with Google Plus-related products across the company.

What Isn’t A Google+ Enhanced Product?

Yes, everyone knows that YouTube is a “Google Plus-related” product. Technically, I should write that as a “Google+-related product,” a mess of punctuation caused by the lame name Google gave to its social network. Someone please get Justin Timberlake, er, Sean Parker to do a meeting with Page and say “drop the +.”

Sorry, I digress. YouTube — which existed for years before Google+ — is now just some product related to Google+, I guess. I suppose that Google Search is some Google+-related product. Heck, basically I guess Google itself is now just Google+. Do anything there, and maybe that counts?

Bring in Guy Kawasaki!

At the SXSW conference last month, Kawasaki (above in the hat) diligently tried to get Vic Gundotra (on the right), the Google senior vice president who oversees social, to answer the question. Were these people actually using Google+? From my live blogging:

Guy’s not happy, wants to know how many people do stuff just at Google+. Vic says that’s the wrong way to measure, that measuring like that means things that happen at unnamed competitors [cough Facebook] might not even get counted properly for them, if you think that way.

Yeah, no answer.

Count The Google+ Social Layer?

Now we have this 170 million “upgraded” to Google+ figure that Google posted yesterday. What does that mean? Rafe Needleman at CNET diligently tried for clarity:

What does that really mean? Are 170 million people using the social network the way they use Facebook? I talked to Gundotra, as well as VP of Product for Google+ Bradley Horowitz, on a special Reporters’ Roundtable interview this morning.

When I asked Gundotra how many people are using Google+, he deftly told me I was looking at it wrong. “You have to understand what Google+ is,” he said. “It’s really the unification of all of Google’s services, with a common social layer.”

No, we’re not looking at it wrong. Google is just refusing to answer the question for its own reasons — which is probably because Google+ has far less activity as a standalone social network than either Facebook or Twitter. Perhaps even less than Pinterest, for that matter.

No, Let’s Count The Actual Network

When Facebook says it has over 800 million active users, it really seems to mean people who came into Facebook and used the service in some way in a given month. They seem to be logged in and somehow actively using their accounts.

When Google talks about Google+ usage, saying someone was logged in and then visited one of the myriad of Google properties where some Google+ icon has spread like an outbreak of measles isn’t cutting it for me. That’s not using Google+. It’s not. Sorry, it’s not.

Using Google+ in my definition — and I think for many people who care — means they logged in with the specific purpose of reading content at plus.google.com — the actual Google+ social network, which really is a network independent of the “layer” that it powers elsewhere. It can also include people who made use of a Google+ option outside of plus.google.com to share content or to +1 it (oh, how I hate writing +1 and +1′ing things, more punctuation nightmares).

Perhaps it might include anyone who sees things like Google +1 badges or buttons that are personalized for them when they surf the web, if they’re logged in to Google, such as the ones we have here.

This gets tricky. Does Facebook count the same? With Facebook, if those things are personalized, it’s because someone deliberately logged into Facebook to use the social network at some point recently. With Google+, those buttons might light up because they logged in simply to check Gmail — and if they have also have Google+ account — that triggers up the social buttons even though they never went into Google+ itself.

Postscript – Facebook let me know this after my story went live:

As you indicate, the 845 million number is a monthly active user number.  An active user is someone who has visited Facebook.com and logged-in (or been logged in) or who has taken an action with a Facebook feature (e.g. clicked “like”, etc…).  If the user doesn’t do any of those things for 30 days, they aren’t considered an active user.  If they only see social plugins across the web–even if those social plugins include social context such as friends’ photos, friends’ likes, friends’ recommendations–but doesn’t click anything, they are not an active user.

Tricky, but still, we all know Google has solid activity numbers that could be shared. When they aren’t shared, that just makes it sound like Google is trying to hide that there’s really no social activity. In turn, that supports the entire “ghost town” thing Google’s trying to dispel.

Google+ Is The Apple Store For Google Fans

Here’s the thing. I don’t believe that Google+ is a ghost town. I think — I know — there’s activity there. I think Google+ is also a huge success for Google. I even agree with the idea that Google+ is a “social layer.” I’ve just had my fill, my complete fill, of the PR dodge and spin when it comes to Google+ numbers. I think Google would come off better if it was just frank about stuff.

I’ve been meaning to write my “Google+ Is Like The Apple Store For Google” piece for some time. Maybe I’ll never get to it now. But you know when you go into an Apple Store, and it’s filled with sometimes scary Apple fanatics who seem to have arrived at a holy place? That’s Google+ for Google.

If Google+ isn’t anything else, it’s a place that Google fans can call home. It’s a place that Google’s never really had before, a spot for its millions (and let’s face it, there are millions) of fanboys and fangirls to rejoice in all things Google.

I’ve experienced this firsthand in my time at Google. I’ve learned that if I share anything negative about Google, I can expect to get comments, sometimes many, asking why I hate Google or am biased against Google.

This was a pretty new experience for me. Usually, I’ve had to explain why I’m not biased in favor of Google. But the true believers of Google now have a gathering place where fair criticism can turn into an anti-Google tirade.

Remember that WSJ “ghost town” piece I mentioned? It was written by Amir Efrati, who’s a pretty nice guy. He also has a Google+ page. Watch the Google fans go wild there:

Nearly 400 comments, on and on, all to mock him for a previous article suggesting that Google+ was a ghost town. Yeah, point received. Gotta say, it also doesn’t make Google+ look good. But then again, check out the comments on any active Facebook post, and that’s a pretty sad reflection on humanity sometimes, especially the political posts.

An Excellent Way To Interact With Googlers

Still, the fans have place to gather. And more positively, it’s a place where people who want Google products to improve can make posts and know they’ll be seen by Googlers who actually work on those products. That’s wonderful. No sarcasm — that’s a wonderful thing to have.

But it’s really not just about Google fans being there. There are all types of people there, who have found a home. No, Facebook isn’t seriously threatened by Google+, any more than Google is seriously threatened by the Bing search engine. But some people do want an alternative to Facebook, and Google has launched a successful alternative. No question, I’d say.

The Successful Facebook Alternative

After all, what is the serious Facebook competitor? Where’s the place you can go and do all the things that Facebook offers in one place — connecting, sharing photos, videos, making groups, reading what’s shared?

Twitter? As John Battelle so eloquently put it in 2009, Twitter is a pencil. Yes, it’s a pencil that has grown with more colors. But  it’s still largely about sharing things quickly, in the moment. It’s not a multifaceted social network like Facebook (which, I’ll add, I’m glad for. I like Twitter as a pencil).

Until Google+, Facebook had no real competitor. Even if Google+ is a far distant second, that’s far ahead of say where Microsoft is — which is not even in the race (unless you count Xbox, which sometimes should get counted — but it’s a social network of a different sort).

Coming from nowhere to being second, especially when so many pundits thought Google “didn’t get social” is a remarkable achievement. The people at Google+ should feel very proud of what they’ve carved out, of a new community hub they’ve created that people are actively using and calling home. Beyond that, if Facebook really is worth $100 billion, it seems like Google has created great value in being an alternative, if it’s still far behind in usage.

There Is Activity

As for nothing happening on Google+, I always enjoyed hitting the “What’s Hot” area, which was renamed yesterday to be “Explore.” There are interesting, fun, fascinating or important things in there that are shared hundreds of times, often with hundreds of comments.

A calculator like an Xbox controller! Shared nearly 1,000 times, with over 2,000 +1′s and nearly 500 comments:

Facebook’s Focus On Discovery, Not Search

Facebook could easily eclipse these types of figures, of course. In fact, Facebook doesn’t need “Explore” because there’s so much going on at Facebook that it understands the far bigger challenge is helping people explore what they’re already getting in their news feed from people in their networks.

I’ve been asked a lot recently about whether I believe Facebook will create its own search engine, because the rumors that never die have started again. I don’t, not a web-wide one.

Among other reasons, I think Facebook won’t because it understands that doing social right, when you’re at the scale Facebook handles, is ensuring that people discover what’s interesting to them rather than having to search for it.

Social = discovery, a kissing cousin of search, but not the same. And social is what Facebook is focused on. That’s plenty to chew on. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said as much repeatedly, such as to Charlie Rose last year, about wanting to do “one thing incredibly well.” That means continuing to perfect social.

Remember When Google Did Search?

Ironically, doing one thing well used to be Google’s philosophy. Technically, it still is:

It’s best to do one thing really, really well.

We do search. With one of the world’s largest research groups focused exclusively on solving search problems, we know what we do well, and how we could do it better. Through continued iteration on difficult problems, we’ve been able to solve complex issues and provide continuous improvements to a service that already makes finding information a fast and seamless experience for millions of people. Our dedication to improving search helps us apply what we’ve learned to new products, like Gmail and Google Maps. Our hope is to bring the power of search to previously unexplored areas, and to help people access and use even more of the ever-expanding information in their lives.

Yeah, Google does one thing really well. Search. Then it did AdSense. And Blogger. And Gmail. And selling books, music and videos through Google Play, which is so related to search. And Google+. Just all those one things really well. Someone at Google should either kill that philosophy page or update it, because it’s just embarrassing now.

But that brings me back (you all still with me?), to that Twitter is a pencil thing I mentioned. See, John was paraphrasing that from something that Louis Monier, one of the cofounders of AltaVista, said about search:

I will never forget that quote, from AltaVista founder Louis Monier, as he bemoaned the devolution of his creation into Yet Another Portal. He was devoted to the idea that AltaVista would do one thing – search – and do it well. But AltaVista was instead turned into a bawdy image of Yahoo, AOL, Lycos, Excite, and all the other portals of the late 90s.

And along came Google, which by 2000 had gained a reputation as the Best Search on the Web.

Will Google Break The “Pencil” That Is Search?

The amazing thing now is watching the Google+ification of Google Search and hearing people I know wish for the Google they used to have. I even joked myself today on Twitter:

Sometimes, I kind of miss when Google was a search engine.

That generated more than 50 retweets, so many that Twitter won’t report higher than 50+ (Twitter, what’s up with that?). It struck a chord. Can I haz my old Google back?

How on earth can Google, in its quest to chase Facebook, be potentially screwing up its search engine in the way that Yahoo, AltaVista and others screwed their search engines up chasing after portal gold. Google’s very success comes from being the pencil, the sharp, focused search engine from when others forgot search. Could it really be making the same mistake that its competitors did?

Perhaps. But I do think that most people outside the chattering technosphere classes are probably still happy with Google’s search, maybe noticing some changes here or there but perhaps not as strongly as those who are hyper-attuned to all the Google+ification that’s been going on.

Google+ Does Help Search, But Balance, Please

I also think there are very good reasons why Google does need Google+ to improve search. It’s easy to forget that Google+ was originally just Google +1 and positioned as a search product. That product can allow Google to directly gather important signals it needs to help improve search quality, because it simply can’t keep relying on links as it has. The articles below, if you really care, explain more about this:

Yes, Google+ is part of search, part of that pencil. But it should be a balanced part, not a part that makes me feel like the pencil is uncomfortable to hold. I think Google has some way to go to getting that balance right.

Google+ Is A Layer

And yes, Google+ is indeed a layer that goes throughout Google properties. That was handy PR spin for Google when it launched Google+, to act like it wasn’t launching a “me too” Facebook competitor. It continues to be spin that you hear, and I continue to be irritated when I hear it.

But it isn’t all spin. Google+ does help unite Google properties in exactly the way that Facebook’s Zuckerberg said last year any company should be thinking about, a way to make their products social. Sure, Zuckerberg would like to see that be social through Facebook. But he believes in social as something any company should do. Google’s a company. Google’s socializing its products, just with a Google layer rather than a Facebook one.

But Don’t Deny Google+ As A Social Network

Where Google goes wrong, to bring this all back to where I started, is the self-denial of the standalone Google+ social network itself, which exists outside the layer. It’s a unique, independent place that million of people happily call home. They turn to it each day, deliberately, not just because they’re checking their Gmail or watching a YouTube video or doing a Google search. They’re using the Google+ the social network itself.

Those people deserve to be counted, to know their population, not to be “layerized” simply because Google seems ashamed the numbers aren’t as big as Facebook’s. Google should be proud of those people and what it has accomplished, and giving real figures would show that pride.

In the end, the number game really doesn’t matter much, anyway. Zuckerberg already knew that eventually Google would find a way to count hundreds of millions to seemingly challenge Facebook. That’s why soon after Google+ launched, he talked about citing “active user” figures as nearing an end of usefulness, with the real focus being on the amount of sharing happening.

Facebook still cites active users, 845 million as of December 2011, on its stats page. Maybe eventually, active users will go the way of how search engines used to cite web pages indexed, a figure that’s outgrown its usefulness as a helpful metric. But if we’re still using active users now, I’d sure like to see Google provide a better figure along with other metrics.

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Facebook | Facebook: Statistics | Features & Analysis | Google: Google+ | Statistics: Market Share | Statistics: Popularity & Usage | Top News


About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

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  • alistairmilne

    Actually, Google is counting users in the same way Facebook does … Facebook count someone who clicks “like” on any website as an ‘active’ user, likewise anyone who uses their Facebook account to login with another website – so why can’t Google do the same with +1′s?  Check Facebook’s SEC filing for their definition of ‘active’ if you don’t believe me :)

  • Anup Verma

    Facebook  = local friends, local content(a lot of which is rubbish) 

    Google+ = remote friends(most of whom you don’t really know), interesting content(especially photos and tech-related) 

  • http://twitter.com/AMIYSS AMIYS Solutions

    This is undoubtedly one of the longest blog posts I have ever read. The point being I read it all because I think you make some valid points. We should have metrics on the G+ network in its own right and yet at the same time I can see that the inevitable comparison which would then be made to FB would be irrelevant as a lot of people would not see the difference.

    You are also spot on about the real heavy users of G+ being mainly anti-FB and pro-G+ although I wonder how much of it is about actual personal feelings on the two networks and how much is band-wagoning (made up word) as there seems to be a lot of anti-FB noise at the moment.

    Personally I use them both, although mainly FB if I’m honest. I find the information on G+ to be much less about who had a toasted cheese sandwich for lunch today and much more engaging, but also for me its less social. Although thas probably just down to me being lazy :)Thanks for the great post Danny, and I’ll leave you with this quote from Joost de Valk on Twitter yesterday: The fact that I’m mostly discussing the Google+ changes on Facebook says it all… 


  • http://www.intoto.dk Thomas Zacchi

    Google is also
    not helping agencies make a case for their clients being a part of Google+ like
    they all are on Facebook, by refusing to publish real active user numbers.

  • Philip Stephens

    I’m exhausted just reading all that… I have a Facebook  account, and page, but I only check in there when a web site wants me to use my account so I can post somewhere. It will proably happen here when I click post.

    Google+ may be smaller, user wise, but it is richer, much more configurable and for me, actually useful, something Facebook is not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Aiden-Moor/100001939456401 Aiden Moor

    Great to know about the new update of Google+ about timeline. It means Google+ is going to mimic Facebook a lot. Its nice to see this competition. And as I got a point which is different from Facebook is left side navigation bar with direct access to apps. Great! Lets wait and watch what will be the result of this competition.

  • totnuckers

    exactly Mark Zuckerberg means of active users, included those, that click like button in other website. So no one really knows how many users are really spending time in facebook alone

  • fjpoblam

    pluzz won

  • petermunnerlyn

    Why do so many people want Google+ to be a competitor of Facebook? If we just talk about them separately, then the statistics go out the window because there is no need to compare them. Instead of focusing on this social network war, we should focus on how we, the consumer, are benefitting from these social networks.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/2BNORJKLNKSMZQC53ZCLLATT5Q Mary

    There are so many different social networks now that it’s hard to say which ones are really competing, but hands down, facebook has it made. I’m an auto accident lawyer and my facebook site is the one I give out, although, I have profiles on almost every major social networking site. Google+ really has nothing on facebook, and I don’t think there really is much competition other than twitter, but they’re so different that they’re almost not comparable. Good post, thanks for sharing!

  • dudusmaximus

    Why does it matter? Google is building a Social Network bottom-up. They do not see Social as separate product, but as a feature to add to their compelling (and some not so compelling) products. There is no One Way to build a Social Network.

    Google doesn’t need those vanity metrics to please investors, poach employees, create hype etc. They can grow organically.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Thanks. I suspected this was the case. But I did address it, too. With Facebook, counting makes more sense because we know people who are logged in were actually wanting to use the Facebook social service. With Google, if you made a Google+ account for some reason but never use it, but then log in to Google for some other reason (such as to check Gmail), now you’re an “active” Google+ user.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Because it is a competitor of Facebook. This is pretty much self-evident.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    And yet, they hand out these vanity metrics at every investor call. So if they’re going to hand them out, I think it’s fair that we have a pretty good idea of what they mean. And saying someone checking their email is “active” on Google+ just because they also have a Google+ account and the act of signing in to Gmail makes the “active” doesn’t really cut it.

  • Moribund Cadaver

    A very good article, and I think with hindsight being 20/20 it is clear now that Google aimed to build a “fan club” for Google fans at the very start. I think this was honestly part of their strategy. It’s just that the full consequences and timeline have worked out in a way that makes them worry about how Google+ is being perceived.

    The thing is, I am not sure if G+ will be able to pull out of a distant second due to its fanclub nature.

    To court an analogy, Apple fans swear they can’t live without the App Store, and evangelize why everyone else shouldn’t live without it either. But in spite of that, it doesn’t convert as many to the flock as Apple would like people to think. The people who are most excited about new Apple products and additions to the App Store remain existing, hardcore Apple fans. It’s just that Apple has a lot of fans.

    Likewise, Google+ may be settling in to a dedicated “club house” mentality, with a touch of country club mentality as well. Right from the start, there was a thread of elitism on G+. Many Google fans saw themselves as above the average social user, and looked upon G+ with an air of “at last! Somewhere for the smart Internet users to congregate”. There were a few big fistfights over that attitude early on, in fact.

    But it seems that mentality is becoming taken for granted on Google+.It is indeed not a ghost town… if you’re a Google booster. For many others, there’s not a lot to see, do, or people to talk to. And the kind of fans Google has attracted to Plus don’t seem interested in opening doors… if anything that would be to their detriment. They like the feeling of exclusivity. It seems not unlike the reaction some Apple fans have when a particular service or app they felt was “theirs” shows up on another platform or goes open.

    In a sense, it’s a shame. Because Plus had the potential, for a few months at the start, to bring a much wider swath of people into a social network. The problem is that Google didn’t want to appeal to ALL their users. Just a certain kind; a sort they saw as tech evangelists and elites. Google actively drove away many average users of Google products, like Gmail, with their attempts to force Plus as “an identity service” down everyone’s throat – most of whom were existing Google users that didn’t want anything to do with that. Looking back, it may be that Google was really just trying to jump onto a bandwagon that would excite the technoratzi and get the blogosphere buzzing.

  • The Shambolic Skeptic

    In fact is that what they are doing?

    If so, they’re telling lies. A pity if it’s true. And vaguely criminal if they’re quoting those figures at investor calls.

  • http://www.DomainRegistry.com LE

    The most annoying thing is you can’t even setup a gmail account anymore without getting bogged down in clicking past google plus popups questions etc. That’s how they are getting all the users. It’s bloatware on gmail.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=666732771 Max Beggelman

    This boils down to a difference in the way people want to count the two networks’ userbase.

    We treat the entire Facebook platform as “Facebook”, so everyone who logs into their account is considered an active “Facebook user”, even if they just go straight to play a Zynga game without even glancing at their Facebook Wall. On the other hand, most people only include the social network pages in their definition of “Google+”, so someone who logs in but goes off to use a different part of the Google platform is widely considered to NOT be using Plus.

    The issue with Google’s numbers, essentially, is that they’re trying apply the same standard to their own user counts that Facebook gets to apply to theirs. Clearly, due to the vast differences between the two platforms, it’s difficult to really judge that decision one way or another.

    A question comes to mind, why is it that browsing the Facebook Developers site (which requires users to be logged in to FB) makes me an “active Facebook user”, but I shouldn’t be counted as an “active Google+ user” if I browse Google Code while logged in?

    The problem is in the way people perceive the two sites. Google intended Google+ to essentially replace the existing login structure and become a social sharing framework for ALL Google services, just as Facebook is a framework that supports a large variety of other services on top of the basic social functionality.

    However, Facebook started with social as a core and built their services upon it, while Google added social to their existing suite of services and then dug deep down into their sites to integrate social into the core after the fact. As a result, people simply treat G+ as “just another Google service”, while ALL Facebook services are considered to be part of the “Facebook” experience.

    Facebook is far more than just a set of profiles and streams now; isn’t it about time we set out limits on which parts of the Facebook site should be considered part of the “Facebook” social network, just like many commentators have tried to do with Google?

  • timrpeterson

    “Google seems somewhat desperate to show that its social network — sorry, its social layer — is a success”

    you seem more desperate to show that G+ is not a success

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    You mean like in that long section where I talked about it being successful by several measures?

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Yes, this appears to be what they are doing.

  • timrpeterson

    ok fine, you seem CONFUSED to show that G+ is/is not a success, i dont get the point of this article:

    “If Google’s Really Proud Of Google+, It Should Share Some Real User Figures”

    “And yet, they hand out these vanity metrics at every investor call. So if they’re going to hand them out, I think it’s fair that we have a pretty good idea of what they mean. ”

     ”In the end, the number game really doesn’t matter much, anyway. ”

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I’m confused because Google keeps giving out Google+ “user” figures that seem to have different definitions each time. 40 million who have signed-up. Then 100 million who use it “actively” — except use it means  being logged in to anything that’s deemed Google+ related. 170 million who have “upgraded.” To keep shoving numbers out there with different definitions each time suggests that Google is somewhat desperate to prove growth in some way. I think can show the value of Google+ in other ways, even if providing real active users figures of Google+ itself shows that usage is less than Facebook.

  • http://www.poligazette.com Michael Merritt

    Just try to criticize the globs of whitespace to the right of the stream. The Google fans will go to great lengths to defend it.

  • Tim Mason

    So let’s take your statement:

    “With Google, if you made a Google+ account for some reason but never use it, but then log in to Google for some other reason (such as to check Gmail), now you’re an “active” Google+ user.”

    and change it to this:

    “With FB, if you made a FB account for some reason (e.g. to enter a comtest with a company) but never use it, but then log in to FB for some other reason (such as to check to see if you have any messages), now you’re an “active” FB user.”

    then they are equivalent.

    I see “Facebook” as being at the same level as “Google”.
    “FB Messaging” is the same as “Gmail”.
    “FB Chat” is the same as “Google Talk”.
    And if FB does do “FB Search” later on, then that will be the same as “Google Search”, and I’ll have to log in to FB to use it.

    So in order to use a service, I have to log in to the highest level.  I don’t understand what is wrong with that approach.  And I don’t understand what is wrong with counting users of those individual services as users of the higher-level service.

    [Of course, all of that doesn't address why Google doesn't give out their real numbers when asked, but that's another topic.]

  • Matt Hagens

    It’s pretty obvious why Google started Google +.  To get people to opt in to providing more personal data.  They don’t care if you ever use the network, they just want your permission to use your personal data (like the data when you fill out your Google + Profile) and you gave them the permission as soon as you signed up for Google +.  Very slimy if you ask me.

  • Chris Riley

    Not true: I dislike G+, I don’t want to have an account there, I never intended to, but I am stuck with one. I never go to G+, ever, I patently dislike the idea of Google trying to figure out social information about me. They know enough, dangit. 

    And yet, I am a “monthly active user” because I use Search or Gmail or Youtube. 

    What a load of crock, how can I be a monthly active user for a website that 1) I dislike 2) I never visit and 3) I wish I could delete my profile from without having to delete my entire Google Account.

    The numbers are fudged and if you disagree, you’re probably a fanboy. Sounds harsh but the facts are the facts. Youtube and Gmail users ARE NOT G+ USERS. Done, end of story. 
     It’s not like Facebook is counting Instagram users as active facebook users — unless they’re posting to Facebook!

  • Chris Riley

    Exactly why I dislike Google and am moving all of my information off so I can finally click that “Delete my account” button.

    I signed up for Gmail. I didn’t sign up for Play. Or G+. Or anything else. I wanted Gmail. But now I am forced into having a social Google account.
    There is a specific reason I use Facebook — it doesn’t have email. It doesn’t do search. It doesn’t have a separate video property. 

    But since Google insists on it’s rivalry with Apple, and insists on merging properties, I can happily leave. I’m not an Android user and being pushed into Play without signing up was the last straw. How dare they assume I want to use their shit media service.

    I’m done. I’m already using Apple’s email — email from a company that doesn’t advertise against my emails, doesn’t build a profile on me to advertise to me… and best of all doesn’t have a search or email function to build a complete profile.

  • totnuckers

    “I wanted Gmail. But now I am forced into having a social Google account.”
    Whoa! you were forced? Who are you fooling? yourself?  If you have Gmail you need to have Google account that’s it, no one is forced to use Google+. Google account is not Google+. Or maybe you are cozy with the Apple’s social network Ping

  • Tim Mason

    No – not end of story.

    Facebook IS counting me if I only log in to watch a video.
    Or if I just want to see a particular photo.
    Or if I just want to check to see if I have a message waiting for me.

    So if FB counts me and FB and Google are going after the same advertisers, then Google pretty much has to count me as well.

    And to address your other point, I dislike FB, but I’ll bet that I’m an “active monthly user” there because I chose to “Like” a local store that only posts news and sales there – nowhere else.  And that is THE only reason that I use FB.  Just because I dislike a service doesn’t mean they can’t count me as an active user when they are selling their ads.

    Go ahead and call me a fanboy but I just call it like I see it.

  • xmichaelx

    Google+ is a discovery platform. It’s much, much more similar to Twitter than to Facebook.

    Also, who cares what the numbers are? If it’s useful to you, use it. If not, don’t. I realize that “marketingland” needs real numbers in order to more accurately target people, but frankly, we don’t want to be targeted.

    No one cares about any of this except: 1) markets, and 2) tech writers (because they’re also marketers).

  • http://outcareyourcompetition.com/ Jordan J. Caron

    This is different from Facebook because?


    Thanks for your insights and thoughts! 

  • Shawn Latham

    Nailed it…. For me it’s really social, facebook is a friends network, g+ is a social network.

  • timrpeterson

    ok fine, you seem desperate to show that you have a story on G+,

    google isn’t shoving, you asked them 

    “When I asked Gundotra how many people are using Google+”

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    How do you know they were logged in actually wanting to use the social service?  If you have your account set to inactive on fb, but then go to a site where you set your account as “login with fb connect”, it will actually re-activate your account on facebook?  I don’t mean they just start counting it, I mean that it turns your account back on.

    And of course fb wants to make the conversation about sharing now that they’ve designed their system to auto-share so many things (like the sites you visit and music you listen to, for example, which, after the first time, you don’t even have to give permission for them to do).

    I’ve read that they also count as an active user anyone who visits a site where they ever activated the social reader.  That counts as a login because they’re going to post on your behalf.  Even if you haven’t been to fb in forever, they still count it as active even without a direct login.

    What about people who use facebook messages as their email service?  Zuckerberg claims many do this.  Why does facebook get to count people who login to check facebook email but google does not get to count people who check gmail?  Both offer two services under one login, why should it count for one but not the other? Of course, Google isn’t even counting all of those people (even though you can bet facebook considers every login to any fb service a login to facebook by an active user).  There are 300 million gmail users.

    According to Page’s last numbers, there are 800 million active youtube users, so it’s not true that Google is counting the users for old services.  It must be someone who has set up a G+ account, then logs into a google service with their G+ login information.  If they were counting everyone who uses any of their services as G+ users (as your article implies), they’d be touting over 1.1 Billion users just between youtube and gmail.  The fact that they’re only saying 170 million means they are only counting a small part of those users who meet other (g+ specific) criteria.

    Of course it’s fine to call Google on the carpet for giving numbers that you feel don’t answer the question you are asking, but there’s no reason fb shouldn’t get called on the carpet for making a career out of doing the same.  Why the double standard?

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    The same way I can’t get a Facebook Messenges account without signing up for the full account?

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    You mean like how I can’t get a facebook messages account without signing up for their social feed?

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    Well said.  I’m okay with counting it either way, but it should be the same for both if the numbers are going to be used to compare the two.

    Even with the numbers Google is using, they’re still only counting a fraction of their actual users.  Facebook counts every one no matter what.

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    I do agree about using different terms each time, although I suspect that at least part of this stems from the fact that they probably haven’t figured out how exactly they want to count it.

    I suspect they’d like to count everyone the way facebook does (facebook games users + facebook chat users + facebook messenges users + newsfeed users + facebook video users = total users) but I don’t think people would allow google to do that even though they allow facebook to.  I think if google came out with those real numbers, people would say they were artificially inflating the numbers.  It’s not fair, but I think that’s what people would say.

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    Facebook DOES have email and it DOES have a video property among a number of properties it has.

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    I agree.  It’s also true in reverse.  Facebook is a competitor to Google.

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    I don’t understand why that’s okay for facebook to do with their email service but not for google?  Facebook counts every single one, google only counts the ones that ALSO specifically set up a G+ account.

  • http://twitter.com/zeephyyr Zephyr LópezCervilla

    I have a fake account in Facebook to post comments in other web pages and sporadically checked some information posted in Facebook and yet I never wanted to use Facebook as a social service. I have no friends, I don’t engage in discussions there, I don’t post photos, I don’t write anything. I bet many other people are in the same situation. Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure Facebook counts me as an active user because I register to comment in other webpages more often than once a month.
    Facebook is artificially inflating their size by their dominant position in thing like that. In most webpages, comment sections of journals and magazines, etc. there isn’t the alternative to register with your Google+ account.
    Google doesn’t give the details about the details about the Google+ usage among other reasons because their competitors are offering misleading measurements that can’t be directly compared.

  • http://twitter.com/zeephyyr Zephyr LópezCervilla

    I’m counted as an active FB user despite I have a fake account that I only use to register in those webpages that require it and only offer a few alternatives. I don’t post on FB, I don’t engage in discussions, I don’t have any friends, and unlike you, I don’t even use their f*king messaging service. 

  • James Healy

    You’re not stuck with a Google+ account. Look for “Delete profile and Google+ features” near the foot of the page:

    Youtube and Gmail users are not automatically G+ users. They far outnumber G+ official figures. If Google counted those you’d know it.

    From Wikipedia,
    Gmail: 350 million active (January 2012)
    Youtube: 800 million unique per month (January 2012)

  • aftoy

    Why does FB counting make more sense if they count likes, considering I wasn’t specifically at FB. You suspected this was the case? Why didn’t you investigate more in depth.

    If I forget to log out at FB and I happen to land at a url that has a like button I’m still counted as a user. You are skirting the issue. FB has an IPO coming up, why do they have to fudge the numbers considering the huge user base. They could count users specifically logged in to FB and still have a respectable count. No its all about traffic and potential revenue as well as user count for an IPO.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Paine/100000725783696 John Paine

    This… I actually get to have intelligent conversations on Google+. Even the conversations with people I disagree with are of a notably higher quality. I’m fine with only the best 10-20% of Facebook users actually using  Google+. If I’m going to go out of my way to talk to people, I want them to be smart people. As an added bonus, I don’t know anyone I interact with on Google+ IRL, so if I need to un-Circle someone for not living up to expectations, there’s no social fallout. 

    However, I  still have a Facebook account because everyone needs to have a Facebook account. Its like a utility. I have running water because its just a thing you need to have. As evidenced by the fact that posting this comment is using my Facebook credentials.

  • aftoy

    Hmm and you search on your iDevice and somehow you get ads served? Wonder how they do that? Apple doesn’t get a cut of search traffic on their iDevices? Think again. GOOG paid AAPL $1B to be the default search engine for iDevices. What is iAd but to serve mobile ads. Whats that for? Also did you turn off your Send Diagnostics and Usage under General Setting/About. Because if you didn’t they’re building a profile. I turned mine off.

    Facebook doesn’t have a profile on you to advertise, but they build a profile on your “private posts”, they don’t need your emails to profile you, they already have your posts and photos. Your FB page doesn’t have ads? Look again on the right hand side. How do they know what ads to serve you. Tada, by the profile they build on your posts. Of course they wouldn’t do that! They don’t have a search button at the top? Odd, I think I see one. Whats with the Bing page when you log out?

    How else would they have a business to generate a $100B IPO.

  • Karás

    And how I can get Facebook’s desktop app for messenger being shoved upon my face?

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  • http://twitter.com/MirandaM_EComm Miranda Miller

    Erm, except that it really was part of the investor call today.  So… there is that.

  • timrpeterson

    google isnt shoving, investors asked them

  • http://twitter.com/builtwith BuiltWith.com

    Hi Danny, we’ve been counting the embeds of Google Plus widgets on sites which might give an indication to the success of Google+ in terms of how website owners see using it as a social media tool. Implementation is definitely flattening out but the amount is still impressive in such a short period of time -
    http://trends.builtwith.com/widgets/Google-Plus-One It's not a count of users on Google+ but it helps give an indication of how website owners decide if they should put Google+ on their site and if there’s enough momentum in the Google+ social network to see any benefit of doing so.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    People who are using FB solely for messaging would be a fairly unique case. But sure, it would be interesting to discuss metrics about what type of social feature is most used by each social network. If you want to class Gmail as now being Google+ mail, I’m sure Google can trump Facebook on the email messaging front. Of course, that’s not something new, either. If you want to talk about people using something new — the new Google+ service, as Google wants to do, then you don’t look back at Gmail or Google Talk but at other things. Except, Google doesn’t do that.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Because Facebook’s figures have been consistent for years. Google changes its definition of its figures seemingly every time it releases them. Sign-ups. Active. Upgraded. 

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Sure, there’s inflation of numbers. But I think few, even those at Google, think that Facebook has somehow inflated its usage that much past Google’s. It’s like the web search size wars. When Google broke like 1 billion pages, and the others were admittedly hundreds of millions behind, debating if Google was off a bit really didn’t make a difference.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Because both FB and Google potentially do the same thing, count you as active if you were logged in and are shown the buttons. But as it turns out, FB says they don’t count unless you actively take an action. Chances are, outside of Google, that’s the same for Google+.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    If you only use Facebook to like things, that’s using Facebook to do a social action. You don’t somehow discount that any more than you’d discount using a Google +1 button.

    Yep, you can watch videos or view photos within Facebook. There is an argument that if you’re doing the same things on Google, then you’d count as an active user of Google. And, in fact, Google could release those type of figures across its network.

    I don’t recall it having done this in the past. No, instead, it has really just fairly recently talked about Google+ users — which as it turns out, are simply a subset of Google users who may have Google+ accounts but not actually do anything on Google+ itself.

    In short, compare Google to Facebook, sure. So let’s have Google do that. But by putting out a confusing “Google+” figure, it probably undercounts its overall audience at the expense of trying to make its social network that it also will sometimes say isn’t a social network look better.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    In some respects, yes. In terms of search, it notably isn’t.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Actually, you could have used one of several different options to comment here, but point taken, Facebook is indeed like a master key. In fact, I wrote a piece about this: http://searchengineland.com/has-facebook-become-the-master-key-to-unlocking-the-web-75139

  • Tim Mason

    But isn’t that (i.e. including gmail and youtube and photos and everything else) what Google is saying that they are doing by building the Google+ layer?  ”Google IS Google+” (or whatever the quote is).  It’s everything that you can do with the company, all in one place, just like FB has everything that you can do with that company, all in one place.

  • Tim Mason

    Ok – yes – I agree – it would be great to have some consistency and some agreement as to what an ‘active user’ really is, whether it’s consistency between companies, or consistency between reports that come from a specific company.

  • Tim Mason

    Ok – yes – I see what you’re getting at.

    It would be great to have some consistency and some agreement as to what an ‘active user’ really is, whether it’s consistency between companies, or consistency between reports that come from a specific company.

  • Hashim

    How about people using Facebook for just gaming?

  • http://riiact.com/ Hasan

    I don’t understand why Google doesn’t wanna earn there users for G+ the was Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks did (non deceptive marketing and word of mouth). Pushing users from other Google products (YouTube, GMail, etc…) is not the right way to build there social network. They need to find a way, a niche, to make users want to visit G+ regularly rather than just force feeding it them.

  • http://www.coydavidson.com/ Coy Davidson

    fuzzy math is much more fun

  • http://thomashawk.com/ Thomas Hawk

    Google+ is a better social network than Facebook.  Functionally it is superior in terms of usefulness and design.  But Facebook has all the users.  It’s sort of like how everyone used to use PCs even though the Mac was/is alot better machine (if you happen to believe that Macs produce a better experience than PCs).

    Google+ has no advertising.  Another huge plus.  Facebook makes you look at ads.

    Over time users will gravitate to the better product.  Just like users gravitated from the PC to the Mac.  Just like users are gravitating from IE and Firefox to Chrome.  Just like users gravitated from Yahoo to Google for Search.  

    The problem with building a better product though is that it takes time, time, time.  User migration does not happen overnight.  Fortunately for us Larry Page and Sergey Brin (with a little bit of Eric Schmidt thrown in) have total, full and absolute control over Google.  And they seem very, very committed to Google+.  So we have time.

    But, positive news stories about Google+ speed up the migration.  Negative stories slow it down.  The problem with opening up the kimono completely so to speak is that people will potentially poke negatively at the numbers.  They’ll compare them to Facebook.  They’ll deride Google+ as a failure because it hasn’t eclipsed Facebook in 14 days.  

    This is a very long game.  Google is smart to try to spin the PR as positively as they can towards the vibrancy of the Google community.  They are smart to try and squash the stories that say it is a ghost town (it very much is not a ghost town, at least for the photography community).  

    What is the upside of realeasing active users numbers?  What possible good can come from releasing a bunch of data that journalists/bloggers and others threatened by G+ will only use as fodder to criticize and hack at the service?  It wouldn’t matter what they looked like or how good they were.  They’d inevitably be compared to Facebook and likely called a failure when in truth it may take Google five years to eclipse Facebook, if they ever do at all.  But you know what?  Even if they don’t, even if they simply put up a respectable fun social playground in the end they still will get enormous benefit from it for search.

    So many people are invested in Google+ failing.  People are invested in other networks.  In Facebook, in Twitter, in Flickr, in their own blogs.  And Google represents a threat to these other networks.  It means people have yet one more place that they have to invest time, effort and energy.  And so many feel that they are already stretched so thin.  After spending an hour on facebook, and an hour on instagram and an hour on twitter, do i really want to have to spend *another* hour on Google+?  So those with established audiences instead try to talk the network down to maintain the status quo.  Why give these people yet more data to try and build a mob against Google+?  

    Google+ is doing just fine.  It just needs the haters to quiet down a bit and just let the network do what it needs to do organically over time.  It’s got some of the smartest and brightest minds in technology working on it and an entrepreneurial spirit hell bent on out innovating in this space.  It also has the long-term full might of Google behind it to promote it.  

  • Jimmy Bouma-Holtrop

    We’re benefiting BECAUSE they’re competing. FB changed their photos UI soon after G+ launched and half the photographers in the world joined up (hyperbole, I know, but you get my point). G+ just quietly gave us “cover photos” on our profiles. Rumor has it that FB paid 2x Instagram’s value because Google also wanted to buy it…which along with G+’s already strong photographer-friendly image would be a blow to FB. 

  • http://ciarannorris.co.uk Ciaran

    No. Because messages is not a separate product, and never was. It’s part of their social network. Gmail always used to be a separate product. 

    When I was signing up my less than internet savvy future mother in law up for a Gmail account (in order to allow her to have a Kindle account), I didn’t want to have to spend an extra 5 minutes turning off her default public G+ account.

    That’s not engagement, it’s spam.

  • The Shambolic Skeptic

    Danny, It would be trivial for Google to post usage of their various properties on a regular basis. My guess is they have a great story to tell, a pity they don’t just come out and provide the data. We all know what the word ‘active’ means for goodness sake.

  • http://www.adigaskell.org/blog Adi

    My mum always used to ask me that if someone jumped off a cliff, would I do it to?  Just because Facebook inflate their numbers through dodgy means doesn’t make it any better for Google to do likewise.

  • bjornballard

    Great article but missed one very important point. Tech writers and media in general are the cause of these changing metrics. You don’t like how they counted and moan so Google count differently while trying to be close to the Facebook way as you guys keep comparing them to Facebook. How about letting up and allowing some consistency? Twitter and Facebook didn’t become massive overnight. Google+ is new, is different and is still young.

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  • rxdump

    I’m not a Google fanboy, nor a Facebook or an Apple fanboy. That being said…

    Sometimes, tech writers are indeed stupid ***holes. Why? They were trying to compare Google+ to Facebook on day 1. Comparing the numbers on day 2. And complaining about features on day 3. Hello??? Is there a brain in there?? The fact is that not even a year has past and Google is doing a freaking great job with Google+. They even pushed Facebook to sweat and make changes. We have a better Facebook because of Google+.

    Can you please wait a little bit? I’m sure Google isn’t giving the numbers you’re asking for because they’re not so great (compared to say… 8 years old Facebook). Still, you want to compare a new born baby with a full grown adult?

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    So because facebook built a newsfeed first then built an email program that should count, but because google built an email system first them added a newsfeed, that should not count?

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    So your issue is not that they are counting it the same way facebook does, but that they haven’t settled on the word to use for it?

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    Yes but watching a video requires a login which counts as “taking an action”.  How is it different, aside from the fact that google doesn’t count everyone and facebook does?

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    I agree.  I’m only saying that one group shouldn’t get to count everything while the other has to only count one small part of it’s users for no discernable reason.

    I’m fine with any of a number of methods of counting, but it should be the same for everyone.

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    That’s true.

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    You don’t seem to understand what they’re doing at all.

    They’re doing exactly what everyone else does, they’re just coming at it from a different angle.

    facebook built a newsfeed first then added other products to it. 

    google built other products first and then added a unified newsfeed to it.

    That’s why they call it a “social layer”.  While some of what they say is marketing spin, I think in this case at least, they’re trying to actually make the point and everyone is so eager to think it’s spin that they’re not bothering to listen.

    Use G+ or don’t because you like it or dislike it, but let’s not pretend that facebook did it the “right” way and google is doing it the “wrong” way just because they built their products in a different order.

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    I don’t think Danny is a hater.  I think he just wants an answer to a specific question and isn’t getting it.

    I could be wrong, but I think his question is “How many people are using the newsfeed feature?” and google is talking in terms of total integration which is not a helpful answer to his question.

    Obviously, he can correct me if I’m misunderstanding.

  • http://ciarannorris.co.uk Ciaran

    I don’t think so, no. I’m going on gut here, but I very much doubt that people sign up to FB to use messenger.

  • rxdump

    I think you are right about saying that Google+ is doing just fine. And, yes, it will continue to organically grow, it looks like there’s nothing to stop it.

    Just want to add that the fact you started your post with an Apple fanboy approach almost killed all your credibility. We’re a lot out there being tired of reading that kind of crap because we are simply using what’s best at the moment or what’s best matching our present needs. We are not blindly following a brand.

  • http://thomashawk.com/ Thomas Hawk

    daniel, I don’t think Danny is a hater either.  I just don’t see the upside for Google to provide these sorts of numbers that Danny would like to see. These numbers would most likely simply be numbers that end up being used in articles that portray Google+ negatively.  It hurts growth.  People are impatient and want immediate comparisons.  Google’s strategy is best to promote the great things that are happening on the site (like the Plus One Collection book that the photography community made) and let the site grow organically long term with less quantitive comparison to Facebook.

    I suspect how many people are using the newsfeed on G+ in the same way that they are using the Facebook newsfeed is important.  But Google gets lots of benefit from G+ data even when they are not.  Even if all someone does is +1 something outside of G+ or fills out there profile that’s still valuable to them.  It’s in Google’s interest to promote Google+ as a huge success (and it is).  But to throw out numbers that show that in the specific arena of what is probably purer social interaction they are behind compared to Facebook doesn’t do G+ any good at all.  

    So many people *don’t* want Google to create a social network.  They don’t want to maintain another one.  They don’t want to dilute their attention from other sites which already take time.  They don’t want G+ promoted via other Google efforts (SPYW for example), etc.  The fact that Google through SPYW promotes content by high profile users is sort of way that Google highly incents those that would care about Google traffic to participate on G+.  People who have successfully built a brand using other avenues are those likely to be the most critical of G+.  Why give these people ammunition to attack Google+, Google’s marketing efforts, etc.?

  • http://thomashawk.com/ Thomas Hawk

    rxdump.  The Mac to PC comparison works if you are one of the believers that Apple makes a better product and a better experience.  Not just a fanboy, but someone who literally sees the superior product.  This does not work for many. As someone who spends a fair chunk of my 24 hour days living on a computer, I found the Mac a far better experience when I switched from a PC about 5 or 6 years ago.  I’d used PCs for 15 years+.  In my experience my Mac was more reliable, crashed less, had less errors, and as Apple likes to market just works.  

    in my opinion G+ not only has better design than facebook (especially with the most recent refresh earlier this week) but it’s a more stable platform that consistently delivers less errors.  It’s a more usable platform like the Mac was a more usable platform than the PC… for *me*.

    Obviously this isn’t true for everyone and some prefer PCs over Macs.  But those that have switched from PCs to Macs and have found the experience better on most levels probably understand the analogy.  Guy Kawasaki made a similar comparison in his book on Google+ which wasn’t well received by Apple critics either.

  • alistairmilne

    I am pretty sure Facebook also count as ‘active’ users who are not logged out and visit any other Web site that is integrated with Facebook (e.g. some site show you which friends of yours have already joined before you’ve registered). If you remember there was a slight controversy over how Facebook ‘track’ you if you’re not logged out and use sites using the Facebook APIs.

    I think Google are just trying to use the same style of measurement so they can be more fairly compared with Facebook’s numbers.

    It should be pretty clear in a year or so whether they are merely converting their existing user base or actually winning users as a whole.

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    That’s an argument that people don’t like facebook’s email, not that facebook should be allowed to count it’s email and google should not.

    My question is why should facebook be allowed to count people who use their email service as users but google should not be allowed to?  

    The only difference I can see is order of creation.

  • http://riiact.com/ Hasan

    It’s not that I don’t what they are doing, I’m not even sure Google really understands what they’re doing. Calling it a “Social Layer” doesn’t change the perception of how the common user views G+, which is as a stand alone social network (i.e. Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc).

    When speaking on the products the main and obvious difference is that all the facebook products live within a single domain while all of Google’s products live all over the place which brings it back to the perception argument. Due to the fact that all of Google’s product live on different domains the common user is going to view them as separate independent entities. So it’s not really what order they where built in but rather how seamlessly they are integrated from the users perspective.

    There are a few things that I think Google needs to realize:

    1. They cannot boast and brag about a super high user signup rate without giving straight-up, non-convoluted, non-confusing, user activity metrics.

    2. When Facebook reached 170 million users (sometime between Aug 2008 and Apr 2009) it had much more media buzz and just about everyone I knew was using or had at least heard of it. Sorry, but I haven’t heard or got the same vibe from G+.

    3. The heart beat of any social network is not the amount of users you can count in your database but rather the content generated by your user base. For instance look at Instagram… at 5 Million users they had 150 Million photos…

    At the end of the day I’m rooting for G+ and hope the product succeeds but in my opinion they need to change their approach and be more realistic about their growth.

  • David K.

    Because Facebook’s messaging service is entirely self contained, much like AOL’s was back in the day (or Prodigy’s if you really want to take a trip down memory lane). You send a Facebook message between Facebook users on Facebook.

    GMail on the other hand is completely different.  Yes two people can use gmail to exchange e-mails to each other, much like to Facebook users can message each other.  BUT Since its inception Gmail has been for sending e-mails to ANYONE with an e-mail address regardless of whether its a gmail account or a hotmail account or a private domain account.  

    Basically its an apples and oranges comparison.

  • David K.

    This comparison is flawed because (as I point out in an above comment) Facebook messaging and Gmail are entirely different. 

    Facebook Messaging is sending messages within Facebooks network.
    GMail is sending e-mails to ANYONE with an e-mail address, regardless of whether they use GMail or not.

    Facebook Messaging is like a pair of walkie talkies, unless you have one of the pair you can’t talk to each other.

    GMail is like a cellphone, as long as you have another persons number you can call any other cellphone, even if Google didn’t make it.

    Apples and oranges comparison.

    In addition most of us (almost all of us i’d bet) created our accounts for GMail or YouTube or Picassa long before Google+ existed.  It wasn’t until Google FORCED US to convert our accounts and consolidate them that they were even tied to Google+.

    I have little to no interest in using Google+ as a social network.  I’d be perfectly happy to keep my gmail account completely distinct and never EVER to have the two touch.  Same with YouTube.  I created that before Google+ was around.  I want to keep using GMail and YouTube, I am a gmail and youtube user, but I shouldn’t be counted as a Google+ user when that happens because i’m NOT using Google+.

    Google may use double talk to try and conflate the two but the reality is users don’t consider YouTube or Gmail to be part of Google+.

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    Facebook messenges is an email service.  You can send and receive emails from non-facebook members.  It works like any other email service.

    They even copied the conversation idea from gmail with a tiny twist.  Instead of organizing conversation into threads by subject, they organize into threads by people.

    It’s a regular email service.  If you don’t believe me, send someone an email from gmail or yahoo mail or whatever to their facebook email address.  They can reply back and everything.  It’s regular email.

    Now it may be that hardly anyone likes their email service, but that doesn’t make it not at email service.

    So I’m still failing to see why facebook should be able to count their email service but google should not.

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    Have you ever used facebook messages?  It’s a regular email service.  You have an email address and anyone (whether they are on facebook or not) can send you an email from any email provider and you can send email to any provider.  It’s nothing like walkie talkies.  It’s like gmail. it’s like yahoo mail.  it’s like hotmail.  it’s a regular email service.

    “In addition most of us (almost all of us i’d bet) created our accounts for GMail or YouTube or Picassa long before Google+ existed.  It wasn’t until Google FORCED US to convert our accounts and consolidate them that they were even tied to Google+.”

    So I think we find that the above is the crux of your argument which is that facebook built a newsfeed first and then added others services so they can do whatever they want but since google built other services first then a unifying news feed, then they are just evil evil evil.

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    “So it’s not really what order they where built in but rather how seamlessly they are integrated from the users perspective.”

    And this is just a matter of time.  They are every day more and more integrated and unless something big changes at google, they will continue to intertwine more and more until (I suspect), there is no difference.  A person may only use youtube, but it will be seen as a g+ feature the same way as facebook videos are on facebook.

    I don’t think they’ll ever try to lock people in the way facebook does but I think they’re definitely heading to a much more unified experience.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=755677027 Kristjan Wager

     That’s your use of facebook and google+ – mine is pretty much the exact opposite.

  • amatya bipul

    MAN;;;just look how beautiful g+ really is,want to miss all that,u only have 1 life after all

  • http://www.WeAreSpoke.com creativereason

    A lot of google zealots on here… I have 3 FB accts, and I have at least 10 different domains on google apps email, each of those keeps prompting me to join google+. I have on at least 5 of them. The numbers like that skew both ways. 

  • http://www.WeAreSpoke.com creativereason

    Go ahead and look at any site that has +1 button, FB like button and Twitter “tweet” buttons and see how the #’s compare. On most of the web, the numbers are 10 – 20x higher for FB on every post. However, on this site (where based on the passionate defense of G+ and Google the numbers are skewed, it’s only 2x higher). 

    Not one of my wife’s friends have ever tried G+ and when I’ve asked them too (and shown it to them) they say no (they are teachers). G+ is only succeeding in tech and SEO crowds. I would guess that only 1 in 20 of the average Youtube user has ever really tried G+. 

  • Paul X

    It would be interesting see how many people actually use FB messenger for email as their main email client. I would bet it is not that many. Sure it can do it, just like my car will do 130+, doesn’t mean to say that i ever do.

    Gmail is the 3rd(?) most popular webmail application and no doubt accessed by many using POP/IMAP by Outlook, Thunderbird etc.

  • Paul X

    Sounds to me like you are an active Facebook user then and should be counted.

  • Paul X

    I think you will find if you delete you public profile and you G+ account you can continue being a Gmail, etc user. i know I have. I have ditched G+ no problem at all.

  • Paul X

    Yep, agreed. It only take a few seconds and you are free on the nightmare that is G+

  • Paul X

    The big difference is that you probably really know the person who had a toasted cheese sandwich for lunch.

    FB is very superficial but for some reason I just can’t take to G+ and i have had two goes at it now.

    But what I really don’t like is the way G+ puts all your circled people into you contacts, without so much as asking. That is a real pain if you are syncing contacts to an Android phone. 100′s of useless contacts. It is this that in the end drove me to ditch G+, it was trying to take over my Google life.

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    It would be interesting to see.

    Even so, whether people like it or not isn’t really relevant to why fb should be able to count it in figures and google should not.

    Incidentally, gmail passed yahoo mail recently and is only a little behind hotmail/live/msn.  Probably by the end of the year it will be the #1.

  • http://twitter.com/lightfallsup daniel

    You’re argument is that a ten year old website has more users than a 9 month old one?  That is impressive.    

    Of course, your reply doesn’t address anything in my post at all.  Why do you think one company should get to count everything and another should not be allowed to do the exact same thing?

  • http://www.phimtructuyen24h.com/ Phim

    Alle Produkte, die bringen ihre Schatten u

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KKY5QEQ4AX3EZ5IEDY5UTB6OOQ TheMan


  • http://techtasks.net/ TechTasks.net

    why google always boosts abt G+ nothing is there in ‘+’ is there any special features which is not there FB ….

  • nattapol sresook

    very good.

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