How Big Is Google+, Anyway?

Google+ has clearly been getting a lot of traction, both in terms of new users and publicity, but what's not clear is exactly how many people are using this social thing (which is not a network, thank you very much).

The most popular figure floating around right now is 20 million (and its wishy-washy variants, "about 20 million," "over 20 million," "nearly 20 million," etc.). While some journalists and bloggers are now slinging this figure around like it's an established fact, it's worth remembering that it is a projection based on a statistical sampling technique created by Paul Allen, the founder of, who compared the frequency of surnames in Google+ with their frequency in the general population.

Now I am no mathematician -- not even close -- and statistics give me a rash, so I freely admit I have nothing to say about Allen's methodology or conclusions. But I was also unable to reconcile the 20 million figure with separate data from Experian Hitwise, showing that Google+ attracted just over 1.8 million total visits in the week ending July 16, 2011.

There are a couple possible explanations for the apparent disparity between the number of users and the number of visits, but none of them is terribly convincing at an intuitive level. For example, I guess it's possible that the majority of those (projected) 20 million Google+ users signed up and then just never visited again -- but that just doesn't sound like the rapturous reception I have been led to expect, given the feeding frenzy of interest in tech circles. I mean, I have to think new Google+ members would visit their preciousss at least once a week, right?  Or maybe Allen's guesstimate is off, somehow (and in a way I'm not competent to investigate)?

Anyhoo, some of Experian's other data does confirm that -- whatever its current size -- Google+ is indeed growing rapidly and entering the mainstream. The 1.8 million visits represent an increase of 283% versus the previous week, and an increase of 821% over the week before that. And in the most recent Experian figures, 57% of visits to Google+ were from males, suggesting that the gender imbalance of a few weeks before (90% male-10% female) may be correcting itself.

2 comments about "How Big Is Google+, Anyway?".
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  1. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, July 21, 2011 at 4:12 p.m.

    Who knows all the truth. But I know I was suckered into signing up because I received "invitations" from all sorts of people who "wanted to connect with me".

    Then I realized most were people I barely knew and Google was inflating membership by mining their GMail accounts (or other lists).

    Truth turned out that there were 1 or 2 people I knew who had signed up. And that doesn't make it much of a social event - yet.

    So as a bonified "member", I'm as inactive as they come - waiting for some point when it is clear whether I should become active.

    Wonder how many of their initial sign ups are from baiting people into joining like me?

  2. Rajiv Jadhav from Citibank, July 22, 2011 at 7:58 a.m.

    I was hit by the hype and the typical google way of 'by invitations only' piqued my interest. I felt like I just HAD to find a way in. once in, it was a massive disappointment. Sure circles is and interesting idea and the UI and U XP of adding people is cool. But, thats where the buzz tanks. My question is -so what exactly do you do there besides control who sees your posts. Nothing much more. I see it as a cool collaboration tool and something to add to gmail, gdocs and gcalendar. The moment they open the platform to allow app integration is when I think they will really be competing with facebook. I tried it once, got bored and peaced out pretty quick. I haven't gone back - now compelling reason to really. -- Sent from LG's droid.

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