THE LATEST SOCIAL NETWORK Google+ has reached 18 million users in around three weeks of operation, hinting at the potential growth that it can expect over the next few years.
Paul Allen, a statistician behind Ancestry.com and not to be confused with Microsoft's co-founder, revealed on his Google+ profile that the social network would hit the milestone of 18 million people some time yesterday.
Initial growth up until 7 July was slow, barely hovering above two million users in total, thanks largely to the closed field trial. However, it skyrocketed after that, jumping two million every few days, or, in the case of two particular days last week, it gained two million users per day.
That growth has slowed down somewhat this week, however, with only between 763,000 and 948,000 people signing up each day, a growth rate of 4.47 per cent at its lowest.
The thing is, this is viral growth, so there's still huge potential for it to explode when Google starts actively marketing Google+, as it plans to do eventually across its entire network, which includes its search engine plus Youtube, Blogger, Gmail and countless other services. Allen estimates that at least a billion people use Google products, which gives it a wide audience to which it can pitch Google+.
Allen predicts that when Google starts advertising its social network it's likely to bring in several million people every day for a long period of time. He said Google is likely delaying its marketing scheme to improve the service and upgrade scalability so that it can cope with the sheer volume of people it will likely attract. This will be particularly important in light of recent hiccups like when it ran out of hard disk space for notifications.
While these figures from Allen are unconfirmed, Google's CEO Larry Page revealed that the service had over 10 million users on 14 July, so Allen's statistics are probably not far off.
While not anywhere near the 750 million people on Facebook, 18 million users is a phenomenal number for such a new social network, and particularly considering that Google had closed invites for a significant portion of this time.
Facebook was created in 2004, giving it seven years to reach the stage it's at now. If Google+ continues at anywhere near its current pace, or at a pace equal to the impressive growth of its Android mobile operating system, it conceivably could catch up with Facebook, or even steal much of its membership and overtake it. µ