G+ Kremlinology: estimating the desolation of Google's social media ghost-town

Google's spent four years frog-marching its users into G+, its faltering social network, even tying company-wide bonuses to G+ performance, thus ensuring that all of Google's offerings did everything they could to cram us into G+ -- but it hasn't worked.

Google won't dish detailed stats on G+ adoption, but Dredmorbius used Google's own sitemap, published to aid crawlers in spidering its service, to analyze a theoretically representative sample of G+ profiles and to show that the service has extremely poor uptake and adoption.

G+ was full of missteps from the beginning, starting with its disastrous "Real Names" policy, which alienated the people who were already unsatisfied with Facebook's own version of "Real Names." The merger of Gmail with G+ meant that those of us who maintained a token Gmail account solely to activate our Android devices suddenly found those devices inundated with stupid notifiers about a social network we'd never consciously joined or used, flooding into our theoretically unlisted mailboxes.

But ultimately, G+ is an example of Google's long history of insecurity. In the old days, the easiest way to get Google to do something stupid was to have Yahoo do it first (see, China). Now you can get the company to throw itself off a bridge by telling it that Facebook's really betting heavy on bridge-jumping.

Summary of findings:

* There are about 2.2 billion G+ profiles total.

* Of these, about 9% have any publicly-posted content.

* Of those, about 37% have as their most recent activity a YouTube comment, another 8% profile photo changes (45% of all "active" profiles).

* Only 6% of profiles which have ever been publicly active have any post activity in 2015 (18 days so far).

* Only around half of those, 3% of active profiles, are not YouTube comments.

* That is, 0.3% of all G+ profiles, about 6.6 million users, have made public G+ post in 2015. That's ~367,000 users posting daily if each posts only once (the actual post frequency will vary somewhat).

This doesn't include non-public posts or comments, or lurkers, but it's a pretty clear indication of the level of publicly visible activity on G+.

Estimating G+ User Activity: 4-6 million active posters in January 2015 to date [Dredmorbius/Ello]

(via Waxy)

(Image: Tumbleweed, Jez Arnold, CC-BY-SA) (Image: Tumbleweed, Jez Arnold, CC-BY-SA)

Notable Replies

  1. 'Ghost town' is a bit rough, although I suppose it is suitably provocative as a headline.

    Regardless of the damning stats, I've only ever found Google+ to be an active - even thriving - community. Perhaps I've somehow stumbled upon all the good and regularly participating users?

    For me, Facebook is a mess of boring crap from family and friends that I can't be bothered wading through. Twitter is a favourite, but it has limited capacity for me; the character limits and absence of decent discussion functions (nested replies, etc etc) make ongoing conversation a challenge - particularly between multiple users at a time.

    Google+ then is a great middle-ground, functionally. It acts like Twitter in that it's more of an open stream of public discourse (depending on how you choose to utilise your circles, of course), but it has the more capable discussion power that you get from Facebook.

    People have railed against Google+ for all the shittiest reasons, with the valid exception, I suppose, of the idea that it exists only to mine your data, but surely you didn't think FB and Twitter have more angelic intentions - while ignoring its potential.

    But, ah well. It does the job for me. I've met great people on Google+ that I wouldn't otherwise have the privilege of knowing, and interacting with them actively every day has been a real treat.

  2. Don't forget requiring G+ for leaving Google Play app feedback, even if you're logged in with a Google account. Another bit of pointless blackmail that just made (and still makes) people resentful.

    There are some major advantages to having it be a self-selected group of hardcore nerds, rather than your parents. Makes for a very clubby and mostly low noise environment*. The lingering fear, of course is that Google will axe it entirely like it has with so many other things... so for that reason Google +ers feel compelled to defend it vigorously even though they'd resent an actual influx of active users.

    *Edit: This leads to other problems, but it's nice when you're part of the served group.

  3. Two words: Critical mass.

    The stupid invitation thing on rollout made it impossible to get on it, and later, it was impossible to get my friends on it. I desperately wanted it to work. I still want to get off Facebook, and I still know virtually no one who uses G+.

    The media keeps reporting that the culprit is a real names policy. There are a lot more people on Facebook with their real names than not. I'm sorry, but that's not what kept those people off G+. You want to start a social network? Free advice: Get it to fill up as quickly as possible. Fuck reliability. If it crashes due to volume, you make the news and other people come to see what the fuss is about. It's a ready-made headline, "New Social Network Goes Offline Due to High Demand." Google didn't want to take a risk well worth taking. That was their mistake. Anything else is icing on this particular crap cake.

  4. Their marketing campaign to entice users was "Fuck you. Log in."

    That they persisted with the strong-arm G+ nonsense for so long is what really soured me on Google as a whole.

  5. G+ is perfect for me because I hardly know anyone and don't like people.

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