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Nobody Is Using Google+

Nobody is using Google+. At least, far fewer than you might imagine. Analytics and visualisation blogger Kevin Anderson charts information about Google’s social networking platform and finds that despite billions of sign-ups, hardly anyone actually does anything on it.

Anderson studies data compiled by Edward Morbius, who says that just 9% of its 2.2 billion users actively post public content. On Ello, Morbius writes that based on his research between 4-6 million people engage, interact, and post publicly on Google+. Anderson’s analysis covers January 2015.

Morbius cites a Re/Code interview from last year with Google+ boss Dave Besbris. In it, Besbris says “I don’t want to talk about numbers,” and Morbius questions whether he’s “hiding something.” It appears he is.

Here’s a summary of his findings:

  • There are about 2.2 billion G+ profiles

  • Of these, about 9% have any publicly-posted content
  • Of those, about 37% have as their most recent activity are comments on YouTube videos, another 8% are profile photo changes
  • Only 6% of active profiles have any post activity in 2015 (18 days so far)
  • Only about half of those, 3% of active profiles, are not YouTube posts
  • That is, 0.2% — 0.3% of all G+ profiles, about 4-6 million users, have made public post in 2015

Morbius explains his research:

This is an analysis which estimates active G+ users, defined as those who’ve made a post to G+, not simply commented on a YouTube video, in the month of January, 2015. It’s based on pulling Google’s on Profile sitemaps and sampling profile pages based on them. You should be able to replicate the process yourself (or with a hackishly-minded assistant) using the methods described.

Anderson has visualised Morbius’ data to produce this graph:

Google+Kevin Anderson/Edward Morbius



Both parties concede that the numbers only take public content; private posts or comments remain uncovered. “But it’s a pretty clear indication of publically visible activity,” Morbius stresses.

Morbius also notes the importance of YouTube in all of this. Of the profiles where people use Google+, 37% are through a YouTube video. Another 8% is a profile photo change. Indeed, as Morbius looks through profiles and activity, he concludes that the low percentages “tell us why Google was so eager to combine YouTube and G+ comments — it’s doubled the G+ activity”.

From his 2015 analysis particularly, Morbius covers hundreds of Google+ profiles in detail. One poignant statistic is this: “We’ve got a grand spanking total of 24 profiles out of 7,875 who’s 2015 post activity isn’t YouTube comments but Google+ posts. That a 0.3% rate of all profile pages, going back to our 2.2 billion profiles.” Clearly, with YouTube Google+ would seem even less popular.

“No wonder Dave Besbris doesn’t want to talk about numbers,” he writes.

Morbius finishes with some caveats:

I’m a space alien cat living outside the solar system. I don’t have any conflicts of interest, other than a considerably growing distrust of Google. I use G+ actively myself, and find it useful, though limiting and exceptionally frustrating. And I dislike FaceBook far more.

The conclusions here are based on sampling and I’ve seen them shift by a few million as more data rolls in. Still, I’m pretty confident that the total number of publicly posting (not commenting, which could well be far higher) users is well below 10 million for January, 2015.

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