Google+ announced on Tuesday that it grew from 190 million active users to 330 million in the past six months. Twitter boasted 230 million in October, just after it announced an initial public offering rumored to be more than $11 billion.
Google defined active users as those who post and participate in its main newsfeed or stream. The definition negates the prevalent argument that the number of Google+ users is inflated, because many join the site to gain access to Google products such as Hangout and Gmail, without any intention of participating in Google+.
The fast pace of Google+’s recent growth and its outpacing of the social media site of the moment is surprising, especially given its slow initial adoption. It launched in July 2011 with an invite only member acquisition policy. By September 20, the day Google+ opened to the public, the network already had 25 million users; this grew to 45 million in October. During the next two years, Google+ gained more active users. It reached 100 million in September 2012. Along with this slow but steady growth came analysis and news reports about the impending failure of the site. The main argument was that the world did not need another social media site, and Facebook had staying power due to its position.
But based on the updates revealed at the Google+ streaming event on Tuesday, Google+ might have decided to become something other than a social network. Updates included easier photo editing, automatic conversion of videos to movies, and better quality hangout videos. VP of Product Bradley Horowitz said the goal was for Google+ to become the “archive” of its users’ lives, and the enhancements to the photo and video tools come in the service of that goal. Google+ may not be able to compete with Facebook in sheer numbers (yet). But a social site backed by all the fearsome firepower of Google and geared towards archiving and manipulating the ever-more-copious digital output of modern life could become a real killer.