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Google+ Going Big, Fast, but Will It Last?

Larry Page: Google+ tops 10 million users, 1 billion shares per day
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Google+ has a ways to go before it rivals Facebook’s user base, but just two weeks after its launch, user engagement for the Web's newest social network appears to be going strong.

During Google’s quarterly earnings call Thursday, CEO Larry Page said the site has attracted more than 10 million users who share and receive more than 1 billion items daily on the site.

“The growth of Google+ has been great,” he said. “That’s a great achievement for the team.”

The size of the Google+ population wasn’t too surprising, as last week Google chairman Eric Schmidt said the network had millions of users and earlier this week Ancestry.com founder Paul Allen used U.S. Census data to estimate that the site had about 10 million members.

But the volume of Google+ sharing seems striking—especially when compared to Facebook, a site with about 75 times more people. At Facebook's most recent press event, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it's more than 750 million users share 4 billion items a day.

Google, however, counts shares on Google+ the way it does on its other products. Items shared don't just include a piece of content sent but also the number of people who receive it. So if someone shares a single item with 15 people, Google counts that as 15 shares. On Facebook, one shared item is a single item of content, regardless of the number of people who receive it.

But will Google+, which is chock-full of tech professionals, analysts, reporters, and enthusiasts, sustain such a high level of activity?

Chris Brogan, a social media entrepreneur and president of Human Business Works, said he believes the platform is here to stay.

"Google finally has their social media hit," he said. "Sharing is huge."

He said the network's re-sharing mechanism isn't perfect, and he sees more re-sharing by some of the more popular people. But the site has already become the No. 1 referrer of people to his blog after Google search (some days it beats even that).

That's especially significant, Brogan said, considering he has about 186,000 followers on Twitter and about 13,000 on Google+.

"To have Google+ beat Twitter is a huge number," he said.

But Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, said that while current Google+ members are high-usage types more than happy to kick the tires, that’s no indicator of future engagement.

“Facebook’s a more mature offering . . . as in the network has settled down to a kind of steady state,” Enderle said. “Google+ is still in an early adopter state. I’d expect that over time it would drop down and be much closer to Facebook.”

“The advantage is still in Facebook’s court,” he said. “[But that’s] the same condition that existed with Myspace and Facebook. Just because they have the advantage now doesn’t mean it’s going to continue.”

He also said that though the Facebook-Google rivalry is most top of mind, from his observations it seems as though people are actually using Google+ as a kind of "super Twitter."

During Thursday’s earnings call, neither Page nor the analysts specifically referred to Facebook, opting instead to use the innocuous phrase “other social networks.”

But when asked about how Google+ might compete with rival networks (read: Facebook) that already have users’ photos, friends, and other information that can be a hassle to migrate, Page seemed to make a slight dig at his biggest opponent in social.

"There is legacy . . . [but] Google as a company believes in users owning their own data," he said. "Some of our competitors don't believe in that. But we believe users will ultimately move to services that reflect their best interests and work well for them."