It's still no Facebook, but Google+ usage by people in the United States surged 55 percent from November to December, Experian Hitwise said.
The growth lifted Google+ to 49 million visits, the analysis firm said in a tweet yesterday.
Google has held its official measurements of Google+ usage close to its chest, but others are happy to fill the void. FamilyLink founder and "Google+ unofficial statistician" Paul Allen concluded Google has 62 million users overall in December and predicted 85 million by February 1, and ComScore measured the Google+ population at 65 million for November. Note that Hitwise is measuring visits, while Allen and ComScore are measuring visitors.
Attracting tens of millions of people in a few months is impressive. The biggest social-network rival for Google+, though, has more than ten times that many.
Facebook has 800 million users, said Joanna Shields, Facebook's managing director for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, at the LeWeb conference in Paris in December. And importantly, its users visit the site frequently: "Half a billion come back every day," she added.
Scale matters with social networking, since the whole point of the exercise is to connect with those you know. But dethroning Facebook doesn't have to be Google's sole measure of success: Google has been integrating Google+ with other technology such as Android, Picasa Web Albums, Gmail, search, and Reader, using the service to unify Google technology and to cross-promote its products.
Social networking continues to steadily rise in importance. "Social networking is the most popular online activity worldwide," ComScore said in December, reaching 82 percent of people on the Net who are aged 15 or older and accounting for nearly a fifth of time spent online.