Allen is watching closely for any official announcements from Google to get a sense of how accurate his model is. So far, the search giant's press team has been unwilling to give out any information beyond that which has come from the guy at the top: On Thursday, July 14, CEO Larry Page confirmed that the social network had more than 10 million members. Allen's figures suggested Google+ had reached that milestone a couple of days earlier, but Page may have wanted to avoid getting too specific. Allen is also hoping other amateur statisticians will make themselves and their data known so that they can compare methods and results.
No matter how you measure it, 20 million or so visitors is a lot of visitors. But is it as big a deal as people are making it out to be? Yes, Google+ might end up being the fastest growing website of all time, but Facebook and Twitter primed the pump. Google+ and Facebook seemed to be locked in a war of sorts, with Google+ making it nearly impossible to import Facebook friends into its system and Facebook spiking ads for its competition. But without Facebook, which taught people, more than anything else before it, what a social network could look like online and how it could function, would so many people have jumped into Google's experiment?
And just because they jumped in to test the waters doesn't mean that they're going to stick around. In fact, Experian Hitwise released additional data that took a closer look at not the number of members Google+ has, but the kind of traffic it is receiving. The takeaway: Traffic peaked the week from July 5-12 and has since declined. For the three-day stretch from July 12 to July 14, Google Plus had just 300,000 visits per day. For comparison, Google receives hundreds of millions of search queries daily. Right now, Facebook and Twitter are receiving far more traffic than Google+ ... but so, too, are CafeMom, myYearbook and, yes, even MySpace. Which is why the comparisons are a little ridiculous.
One chart graphs Google+'s growth against that of Facebook and Twitter in their early days just to drive the point home; Google+ hit 10 million members about 50 times faster than the competitors. But, unless you're counting Friendster and MySpace and all of those other networks that have since failed, Facebook is the pioneer in social networking; its slower growth is understandable. The fact that it grew as fast as it did, actually, is kind of unbelievable.
There's another graph that's being passed around. This one was created by Allen and charts his numbers against the date. (You'll find it above and to the right; click to enlarge.) You'll see that it clearly shows Google+'s growth is slowing down, which is something you wouldn't expect if you've only read the fawning headlines. "The viral growth of Google+ has slowed somewhat over the past few days, but my new-and-improved 1,000 surname model shows that more than 750,000 people joined the site on Monday, bringing the total user base to just under 18 million," Allen wrote in a Google+ post this week. "Yesterday's growth of 4.47% was the slowest viral growth since Google opened up invites back on July 6th."