Google+ shows 35% growth, adds Communities

With 135M active users, Google+ shows strong growth but still in shadow of Facebook's 1B users

Calling Google+ the "fastest growing network thingy ever," a company executive said Thursday that the number of Google+ active users has jumped to 135 million, a 35% increase in its user base in three months.

Vic Gundotra, a senior vice president for Google+, reported in a blog post that the social network, which is about a year and a half old, has 135 million active users. If the number of people using such features as its +1 app in Google Play or Gmail are added, the number of users balloons to 235 million.

The company announced in September that it had reached the 100 million active user milestone.

While Google+ is showing strong growth, it stills lags behind Facebook's 1 billion active users.

"This is strong growth over the network's first year and a half," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "In any other business, it would be a hugely positive sign. But online and social networking is a hyper-fast segment of the industry. If you're not seen as an almost immediate challenger to the industry leader, you start to become irrelevant."

That means that Google needed people to instantly take to Google+ and feel that they couldn't survive socially without it..

"But that didn't happen," added Olds. "While this is very high growth for Google+, it needs to be put in context. Their 135 million active users is less than 15% of Facebook's 1 billion active users. Fifteen percent is a pretty small number. Looking at it from a different perspective, what would Google say about a search competitor that only had 15% of the market compared to Google Search?"

Communities launched

Gundotra also announced a new feature for Google+ called Communities, which act as a gathering place for users with similar interests. Users can join groups interested in topics including cycling and Star Wars, or create groups for classmates or space buffs. Communities is set up to support public or private members and the ability to start hangouts with group members.

The new Communities icon is being rolled out today. Users can click on it and join or create a community.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

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