Dec. 28, 2011 at 4:44 PM ET
As 2011 ends, Google+ is poised to cross the 100 million user threshold by February, a feat that took Facebook four years to do.
Avid Google+ watcher and Ancestry.com founder Paul Allen (not to be confused with the Microsoft co-founder) has become something of an unofficial tracking source for G+ since his prediction early on in July that the then-newborn social network would surpass 10 million within two weeks.
In a recent post (on G+, naturally), his forecast sees G+ with 400 million users by the end of 2012. His research shows 625,000 users signing up to G+ every day and already past 62 million. But he thinks that rate is going to go up, because if it stays the way it is now, there will be only about 293 million users at the end of next year. Only! But at this rate, 100 million will join by Feb. 25 and 200 million by Aug. 3.
To spur that optimism, he pulls out this stat, which is actually quite a jolt, if it's anywhere near accurate: Nearly a quarter of all G+ users joined in December. Maybe that's due to some recent improvements, such as editing streams, the debut of G+ Pages and enhancements to Hangouts. There was also a big spike in G+ traffic when it opened up to the public, beyond private invitations, in September.
But a 60 percent decrease in traffic right after that tempered at least some of that enthusiasm.
Now though, the outlook on G+ is bullish again.
A recent comScore report on social networking actually upped G+'s numbers to 65 million around the world, or 5 percent of the global social networking audience.
Chitika Insights, the "independent research division" of the online advertising network, also saw significant upticks in the past three months, as you can see from this graph, using this methodology:
Chitika told us that between September and November, Google+ "saw a 118 percent increase in overall online activity. From September to October Google+ posted the biggest growth figures (55 percent), followed by a growth in online activity of 41 percent between October and November."
The company, which has kept tabs on G+ for awhile, says that this growth may be due to several key factors:
- Google has been successfully integrating Google+ across its wide range of services (Android, Google Apps, Search)
- Google has been heavily advertising Google+ across different channels including television spots and online placements, hoping to connect with a main-stream audience
- Google has remained dedicated to increasing the functionality and accessibility of Google+ to the public and has plans for rapid releases of new features over the course of 2012
Mind you, Google+ still has a long way to go before it gets anywhere near the 800 million currently on Facebook. But at the same time in its history, at six months old, in 2004, Facebook barely had 1 million users.
And right out of the gate, G+'s turbo-charged entry into the social media sphere blew everyone else away, attaining 20 million users in less than a month, a milestone that took Facebook more than three years to do.
But let's remember: Facebook and Twitter and other pioneers had to build up an audience in which social networking wasn't the norm yet, where only a select few were using Friendster or MySpace. Google+ has the advantage of debuting in a time when social networking dominates the time spent online.