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Google+ Growth Numbers In Spotlight

Despite lingering skepticism, Google's social network is defying naysayers by thriving.
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Google+, the social network that Google launched in June, keeps growing. Although observers continue to characterize Facebook as inevitable victor in its competition with Google, Google apparently didn't get the memo to surrender: It's turning what initially looked like a quixotic quest into a real contest.

According to Experian Hitwise, an Internet metrics firm, the number of U.S. visits to Google+ surpassed 49 million during the one-month period ending Dec. 11, a 55% increase from the one-month period ending Nov. 11.

That's not particularly surprising given that Google in October said that Google+ had reached 40 million users. Nor is it particularly impressive in light of the over 800 million users claimed by Facebook. But it is growth, which is important given that some metrics companies see the influence of Google+ waning.

[ Find out what's ahead for Google. Read Google In 2012: 10 Predictions. ]

Google needs to show that Google+ is growing because of sentiments like those expressed by developer Ben Lindelhof in this Google+ discussion. Google+ will fail, he insists, because "it brings nothing new over competing Facebook. It's an also-ran."

Fortunately for Google, Google+ users such as Paul Allen, self-appointed statistician for the social network, make the case that Google+ is growing even more than Google is letting on. Allen says that Google+ has reached 62 million users and predicts that it will reach 400 million by the end of 2012.

Accumulating half as many users as Facebook in a year and a half--it took Facebook seven years to reach 800 million users--would be an impressive accomplishment.

Of course, such numbers should be viewed with some skepticism. Google and Facebook, like all sellers of ads, link ad rates to audience size. Consider it likely than many inactive or marginally active accounts are being counted by Google and Facebook. But as long as the trend for Google is undeniably upward, doubters and Facebook partisans can't do much damage with their doom-saying.

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