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How did Google+ get 100M active users? Hint: they’re not reading your posts

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Google (s GOOG) SVP of Engineering Vic Gundotra revealed some impressive stats about Google+ earlier Monday: The service now has a total of 400 million registered users, and it just surpassed 100 million active users. Gundotra made these comments while announcing the purchase of Snapseed maker Nik Software, and the stats were obviously meant to deal with the often-repeated notion of Google+ being a ghost town. However, the number of active users in particular doesn’t mean what you may think.

Here’s what Gundotra said in his post on Google+:

While Google+ is all about creating a better experience across Google, it’s also a destination. And here too, I’m happy to report that we have just crossed 100,000,000 monthly active users on Google+ ( and mobile app).

This may sound a bit like there are now 100 million people posting to and reading posts on Google+, but the reality is somewhat different.

Google began to unify its messaging products at the end of July, replacing the traditional Google Talk video chat experience with Hangouts. The upgrade was rolled out gradually, but by now, most users should by default launch a Hangout whenever they’re starting a video chat from GMail or Google Talk. And, guess what: Hangouts are part of Google+, which means that each video chat automatically takes you to

It’s unclear how many of those 100 million active monthly users simply visit as part of a video chat as opposed to actually browse through profiles and posts on the site. Gundotra didn’t break out any specifics about the data, and a Google spokesperson wasn’t available for comment on the matter. However, one can assume that the timing of the active user milestone shortly after the Hangouts integration is no coincidence.

Google has gotten plenty of criticism in the past for releasing less than transparent numbers about Google+, and the critics will likely eat this one up as well. However, the issue also shows how difficult it is for Google to compare Google+ to competitors like Facebook(s FB).

Google has long positioned Google+ as a social layer that permeates all of its other products. That’s very different from Facebook, and it means that Google needs to spend more time explaining the network and its unique benefits and features. Otherwise, we might one day all be using Google+ — but still think that no one is using it.

10 Responses to “How did Google+ get 100M active users? Hint: they’re not reading your posts”

  1. Well, Google+ is aware about that it couldn’t get spammed, that’s why Google+ is not allowing self promotion unlike Twitter and Facebook entertain this. Google wont forget that Orkut is RIP , so they dont want to give any chance.

    In the way there is so much possibility to have 100 million user since it has Hangout and circle Privacy feature.

  2. FB and G+ are 2 completely different animals. In my view FB is very often about ‘wasting the boss’ time talking to folks you haven’t seen in 15 years, whereas G+ is more about bringing together folks who will probably never meet each other, but share interests

  3. vince pahkala

    the actual active users on googles plus are very carefully indexed on the circlecount website where you can get all the stats you want- their splash page shows 20419000 users accounted for that are currently active i confirmed this by adding 50 non active users to my google plus circles profile then ran the update feature located on circlecount on my profile and voila! no change! then i went back deleted the users and added 50 active ones and BAM! my following circlecount rose by 50-im not sure what the criteria is for the alogorithym that circlecount is using but i can see that this maybe a real world wide web actual accounting method of who is actually using google plus and who is not-so the 400 million users announcement as of todays post that i read is true but the actual active users versus the ones that just create a profile are 2 totally different virtual markers…

  4. facebook have any qualified rights to comment on google plus,facebook is like an small school application,is facebook have a guts to provide all the things which will be provided by google plus?.

  5. One thing that always bugged me about Facebook were their “active users stats” which may or may not count anytime you pass over a like button elsewhere on a site that isn’t Facebook.

    So for this reason I made a point of deleting ky Google+ account from my Gopgle account so I can ensure I am never a falsely cpunted “user”. I love Google and their services but I find Google+ to be a pointless irritation at best. The slow creep of G+ into everything else Google does is slowly killing these services (sometimes literally) and more and more I feel the desire to just abandon ship.

  6. Not following your argument here. If 100 million use Google+ via mobile (which probably means web apps, iOS & Android apps) as well as the main site directly, how does that equate to people not reading your posts?

    Also using Google Talk as “evidence” for inflated use is weak as you don’t even attempt to dig up usage numbers from Google regarding Google Talk to see if Google Talk is the reason Google+ is so “active.”

    Vic seemed fairly clear when stating where the 100 million is coming from (and that is out of 400 million accounts which means Google+ is only being used actively by 25% of their total plus population).

    From my own personal observations of friends who have a Google+ account (but do not post anything upon it), they use Google+ directly mainly for Hangouts) as its cheaper than Skype group chats and they can do it from their smartphone with multiple people.

    While Google+ activity is no where near Facebook’s billion, it’s not a ghost town either–and to subtly accuse Google+ of inflating their numbers without strong evidence is great for page views but damages GigaOm’s image.

  7. Morten Myrstad

    You could have been right. But Vic Gundotra commented in the stream that the 100 million monthly active users did NOT include Google+-related activity outside of the site itself. This is what he posted:
    “The numbers at I/O were google+ users all across Google. So gmail users who used circles, or Android users who plus oned an app etc were included. Today’s number of 100m is just on our destination site and the mobile app.” So I would think that those 100m DID read your post!:), to use your words.

  8. > we might one day all be using Google+ — but still think that no one is using it.

    Google would be quite fine with that. It is a deliberate strategy by Google to make G+ part of people’s normal interaction with Google, instead of being a separate site where people have to go to do something different.