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Google Plus users: 9 million or 657,000?

News is traveling around the web and being picked up by the media: After a very short time in existance, Google+ already has over 9 million users, and will pass 10 million soon.  It's taking over the social networking space, on its way to beating Facebook and Twitter, and finally Google has a solid success in social networking.

But is all this really true?

To be clear, I like certain aspects of Google+ a lot.  Hangouts are amazing, Huddles are a great idea, and their location-based mobile features are probably the start of a revolution.  So I'm not bashing Google+ when I say that they may not really have the millions of users that people are talking about.

My guess:  657,000, as of July 12.

If you look at all the articles talking about how many users Google+ has, you'll see that Google isn't saying.  The numbers all come from some pretty complex calculations that people are making, based on how many Google+ users they see with certain names, how many U.S. citizens have those names in recent census data, and how these numbers can be projected into an estimate of worldwide Google+ use.  All very mathematical and fairly scientific.  This post gives a great explanation of the best of these calculations.

I, on the other hand, turn to Google and ask Google to count all the pages on the web site "plus.google.com" that have the word "Google+" in the title.  If you browse around Google+, you'll see that this is the clearest indication of user home pages.  The result: 657,000.

This answer is consistent, regardless of whether you search when logged into your Google account or not, or where you search.  You can see this by clicking here


You can also click "next" to your heart's content, and see that all the search results after the first two are in fact Google+ user home pages. 

Several people in Google+ discussions have suggested similar Google searches that show much bigger numbers of results.  Several suggested variants on the following query:


which gives back just over 9 million results.  The problem is that if you go past results page 65 you'll see that most of the results shown aren't Google+ user home pages, but rather Google+ posts, photos, and other content. The reason for this is that Google searches with two search operator criterea will give results with only one of the criteria matched, as lower-down search results.  That's why in my search above I use just one operator and one search word.

The same is true for all Google searches that claim to show 9 million or so Google+ users - go down 60 screens and you'll see non-users.

Interestingly, Google themselves have been quiet about how many users they have.  They're letting the bloggers go wild, but they aren't saying a word themselves.  If they had 10 million users this soon, wouldn't they say something?  But if they don't, how can they burst the bubble that's been created by all the hype?

The fact is, 657,000 Google+ users is great for this early, when the users until now are primarily early adopters.  Go into Junior High schools around the world, they're all using Facebook and are not yet onto Google+. But the early adopter usage is very impressive.

If Google pipes up and says they have 10 million users, I'll be happy to admit that something in my Google search estimation must be wrong.  Until then, take all the numbers you see with a grain of salt.  Or maybe a whole shaker.

Google+ is a great system. Let's stick to the facts about how good it is, and leave the hype out.

Come on Google, give us some facts!

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