Facebook is not 20 times the size of Google+; it's even bigger

Facebook is not 20 times the size of Google+; it's even bigger

Summary: Google+ just passed 40 million users and Facebook last month passed 800 million users. The problem is that one number is total sign-ups and the other is active accounts. Can you guess which is which?

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After Google released its Q3 2011 earnings yesterday, I saw some people making odd comparisons between Facebook and Google+. A few journalists and analysts started pointing out that Facebook is now 20 times the size of Google+, or put another way, that Google+ already has 5 percent of Facebook's user base. This is simply not true.

On July 14, 2011, during the company's Q2 2011 earnings call, Google announced Google+ had hit 10 million users. On October 13, 2011, during its Q3 2011 earnings call, the search giant revealed its social network now has over 40 million users. In other words, Google+ saw 30 million new users join in the three months, or an average of 10 million users per month.

On July 6, 2011, during the company's video calling announcement, Facebook announced it had passed 750 million active users. On September 22, during its 2011 f8 developer conference, the social networking giant revealed it now has over 800 million active users. In other words, Facebook saw 50 million new members use its service in 10 weeks, or an average of 20 million newly active users per month.

I purposefully worded the above two paragraphs differently. If you didn't notice, I'll underline the discrepancy for you: Google is counting the number of users that have joined Google+. Facebook counts the number of users who log in to the service at least once within the last 30 days.

These are two completely different metrics and they thus cannot be compared directly. Some people just tend to forget – or purposefully omit – this fact. It's fairly obvious that Facebook's number of sign ups is much bigger than 800 million while the number of active users on Google+ is much lower than 40 million.

Any online service, including social networks, have users sign up and never come back. Facebook has thus seen more than 800 million users sign up so far. At the same time, not all of the 40 million users that signed up for Google+ are still active.

We must remember that Google+ only opened up to the public late last month. Furthermore, Facebook has been around for much longer, so its growth will eventually stagnate. Still, the important thing to remember is that until Google starts talking about active users, we won't be able to compare the two services directly in terms of user growth nor user count.

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Topics: Apps, Google, Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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29 comments
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  • Huh?

    "These are two completely different metrics and they thus cannot be compared directly. Some people just tend to forget ??? or purposefully omit ??? this fact. It???s fairly obvious that Facebook???s number of sign ups is much bigger than 800 million while the number of active users on Google+ is much lower than 40 million."

    How is it obvious?
    Michael Alan Goff
    • Signups vs actual users

      @Michael Alan Goff Nice spin.

      It is like the Android vs iOS garbage. While iOS is making 80% of the money and it a single model and the numbers are ACTUAL sales, the fandroids scream we have more because they count shipments and unsold devices ... including all the no-name crapware (which is about 90% of count).
      wackoae
      • Huh?

        @wackoae

        Are you saying he was spinning or I was? I'm confused.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • He is spinning, not you

        @Michael Alan Goff .... sorry. I should had specify.

        He counts signups vs usage. Huge difference when a lot of websites are now trying to scam you into signing up with Facebook for access to their free service.
        wackoae
      • Ah, alright

        I was wondering how it might have been me. XD

        He is counting signups vs usage, but even signups vs signups doesn't tell the whole picture. There are people, and I this to be a fact, that make multiple Facebook accounts.

        Some of them are for fictional characters they write.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Facebook is not 20 times the size of Google+; it's even bigger

        @Wacko<br><br>you're right with the term "Android" vs "iOS garbage"...<br><br>Did any article mentioned shipments? I think all mentioned ACTIVATIONS... <br><br>1 Activation = 1 Unique Google Account = 1 Sold Item.<br><br>You should stop talking mumbo jumbos and be more specific.. oh wait.. I think that's how you roll.. <br><br>"Are you saying he was spinning or I was? I'm confused." - Michael Alan Goff <br>".... sorry. I should had specify." - You wacko.
        Papapau
    • RE: Facebook is not 20 times the size of Google+; it's even bigger

      @Michael Alan Goff
      People sign up and don't come back.
      Empro
      • RE: Facebook is not 20 times the size of Google+; it's even bigger

        @Empro

        That's likely true for both sites.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Facebook is not 20 times the size of Google+; it's even bigger

        @Michael Alan Goff
        "That's likely true for both sites."
        Exactly. Read the paragraph you quoted again.
        Empro
      • RE: Facebook is not 20 times the size of Google+; it's even bigger

        It doesn't take a rocket science to realize what the man is implying with that sentence, though. This blog is, after all, "Friending Facebook". The implication is that the churn rate of active users is somehow correlated to the number of signups for Facebook, but not the case for G+.
        Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: Facebook is not 20 times the size of Google+; it's even bigger

      @Michael Alan Goff

      It does seem obvious to me that there are unused accounts on FB. Therefore, to get 800 million active users, there must have been MORE that 800 million signups. Google, on the other hand, is reporting signups, so assuming some percentage of people have since abandoned the site after signing up, the number of active users must be LESS than 40 million.

      I don't think that has anything to do with the fact that this blog is about Facebook; he is merely pointing out that FB and Google are reporting different data, and it is not valid to compare the two.
      aep528
      • RE: Facebook is not 20 times the size of Google+; it's even bigger

        Actually, they reported 40 million users.

        They didn't say 40 million accounts.

        For all we really know, they're simply reporting the active people and leaving the rest out. Remember, even during the closed beta we had estimates of over 50million users from certain bloggers.

        Unless that went down, I'd say they're counting active people.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Facebook is not 20 times the size of Google+; it's even bigger

        @aep528 the other thing to consider in all of this is are they both reporting actual users or just active accounts. I know multiple people that have multiple FB accounts that they log in to regularly. 1 person with 4 accounts does not equal 4 users in my opinion but I don't know if either network acknowledges the difference in their reporting.
        kus2728
  • RE: Facebook is not 20 times the size of Google+; it's even bigger

    Google+ will never beat Facebook. 18+ only? besides Google+ team are sleeping while Facebook on the other hand are fixing things rapidly which they have learned from Google+. It will never beat Facebook
    shellcodes_coder
  • 800 million active *users*?

    Presumably they're defining users as accounts?

    Because that would be nearly 1 in 2 of the world's internet access which doesn't sound quite plausible given babies and old folks and the like.

    http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics

    Firstly, where did the 30 day thing come in, they don't make that claim on their website I could find (see link).

    I would wonder about that because my 'god that's boll0ck' alarm is firing. Facebook have said their account are 75% non US (again see the page I linked). But that would mean 600 million abroad and 200 million US users??!!

    200 million US users? Out of 300 million people? Excluding babies criples prisoners etc. that would be about 1 in 1 US users???

    Then there's this:
    "Every month, more than 500 million people use an app on Facebook or experience Facebook Platform on other websites "

    How can there be 800 million user logging in within 30days and only 500 million experience it on Facebook *or other sites* (i.e. the facebook panels you see dotted around) in 30 days???

    I think this doesn't make sense.

    ----
    The GOP will bail out Facebook, but won't tax it's owners.
    guihombre
    • RE: Facebook is not 20 times the size of Google+; it's even bigger

      "How can there be 800 million user logging in within 30days and only 500 million experience it on Facebook *or other sites* (i.e. the facebook panels you see dotted around) in 30 days???"

      It's not a difficult problem to figure out.

      If person A makes an account for work and an account for their leisure, they're likely to only use one of those for the services on other sites.
      Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: Facebook is not 20 times the size of Google+; it's even bigger

      @guihombre

      Read the paragraphs you quoted carefully.

      I'll highlight the important part: "use an APP... or experience Facebook PLATFORM"

      That means ~300 million uses don't use apps (likely people that use mobile almost exclusively) or don't experience the FB Platform, which means they don't surf the web while still logged into FB.
      aep528
  • RE: Facebook is not 20 times the size of Google+; it's even bigger

    Google Plus is a lot like Windows Media Center. There are a lot of people that have opened Windows Media Center once, simply because it comes with Windows. Only a few diehards consider Media Center a smashing success.
    Rich Miles
  • How many are these are duplicate accounts???

    Everyone I know that is on Facebook and play the games on it, have 2 or more accounts. Many of these games allow player to transfer resources to other players, so they use multiple accounts to accumulate resources to transfer them to their main account. This makes the Facebook numbers extremely inflated compared to actual users.

    If Google+ adds games, then the same thing will happen there too.
    linux for me
    • RE: Facebook is not 20 times the size of Google+; it's even bigger

      Google + does have Games.
      Michael Alan Goff