This morning The New York Times reported what sounded like good news for Google+, but on closer inspection, the news may not say too much about the site's success. "Google+ Gains Traction, Researcher Says," read the headline on Quentin Hardy's Bits Blog post this morning. "Traction" and "researcher" are up for debate.
Google+ power user Paul Allen reported a new round of stats using the same algorithm he came up with when the social network first opened back in July. According to his method, which uses census data to predict G+'s growth, the site has passed 62 million users, adding 625,000 new users per day. He also predicts the social network will have 400 million users by the end of 2012. Facebook has about 800 million. Paul's method has proven successful before. He predicted Google would reach 10 million users back in July. But, as Hardy points out, he has a reason to push for G+'s growth -- he develops applications for Google+. "His methodology in coming up with the number of users is innovative," writes Hardy. "Not exactly ironclad."
As for the "traction" part of the equation. Allen tracks the number of sign-ups, not use. For any Gmail user, signing up and not using the site is very easy. He does note, in the comments, that Google+ users upload 5 times more photos per day than Facebook users. But even concedes that probably has something to do with Android instant upload, which makes photo sharing seamless. Basically, Google makes it easy for its site to feign growth. Sure, it has more "users," but do people engage with the site? Americans spend more time on Facebook than any other site, including Google. Google+ users have called it a ghost town. And for those on the site, it still has issues. Just this week, tech blogger MG Siegler ranted about the site taking down his user photo.
My problem isn’t so much with the fact that I couldn’t have a profile picture of myself giving everyone the finger — which I can and do on Twitter and elsewhere — it’s that no one bothered to tell me or warn me before they just went into my account and deleted the picture.
But that's not even the worst part of the site, he continues. "If I were Google, I would be much more concerned about the rampant spam problem currently plaguing Google+. Flag and delete those fuckers," he wrote.
Yet, the loyalists still believe in the site's inevitable fate to take over Facebook. And they eat up Allen's stats as proof. "Good grief but it's about time the negative reviews stopped pouring in," wrote Google+ user Giselle Minoli on Allen's post. "Now perhaps everyone else will know what the rest of us have known from the beginning. It takes some people a long time to wake up!" What's unclear, though, is if these numbers mean anyone has done much waking up at all.