Google enjoyed a 1,269 percent spike in traffic after opening its social network Google+ to the public on Sept. 20. Since then, traffic has plunged more than 60 percent, according to Chitika, a data analytics company based in Westborough, Mass.
The data shows that, on the day of its public debut, Google+ traffic skyrocketed to peak levels. But, soon after, traffic fell by over 60 percent as it returned to its normal, underwhelming state, Chikita said.
Google launched an invite-only beta version of Google+ on June 28. In its first month, Google's fledgling social network hit 25 million unique visitors, making it one of the fastest growing social networks of all-time. In mid-July, Google CEO Larry Page even stated that Google+ boasted 10 million users who share one billion items a day.
Traffic subsided over the following months until Google decided to open its gates to the public in September. In that first week of wide release, traffic jumped to 15 million visits from 1.1 million the week before, a 13-fold spike. But since that time, Chitika reports that Google has been experiencing low returns again.
While Google tried to keep users engaged with new updates and features, including search and Hangouts collaboration, it looks like Google+ is having difficulty sustaining a high level of traffic. Google has not released any recent statistics about users, traffic or number of shares, but an unofficial report estimates Google+ currently has 43 million users.
With traffic slowing and its premier rival Facebook surging ahead, is Google+ all but finished?
No, and far from it. While the social network may not have Facebook's 800-million user base just yet, Mark Zuckerberg's social network has been around for roughly seven years. Google+ is not even a year old and it's only been completely open for less than a month.
So Google+ has done pretty well for itself. Traffic reports from Compete, Quantcast, and Alexa indicate that Google Plus is the sixth most popular social network. Facebook ranks No. 1, followed by Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, and social Web site creator Ning, based in Palo Alto, Calif.
Most of Google+'s early adopters have been young and male, which bodes well for Google. More than 70 percent of all Google+ users are male, and more than one-third of all users are between 25 and 34.
Google+ needs to underscore the ways in which it differs from Facebook. Currently, Google+'s key differentiating feature is its group video chat offering called Hangouts. On Google+, users can start a hangout and invite other friends to join. The centerpiece video dynamically switches from person to person based on who's talking. Users can mute each other for fun, but the best feature is the ability to collaborate on documents and sketches in real-time directly through the platform. Hangouts is all about working hard, playing hard and bringing people closer together.
Google is trying to get attention, too. The company placed a full-page ad on the back page of the New York Times Tuesday, displaying an old NYT news blurb with some new edits made in red ink. The edited message has an Oct. 8 dateline from New Delhi, which read, The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, joined the 80th birthday celebration of a fellow Nobel laureate, Desmond M. Tutu of South Africa, via hangout after the host government did not grant his visa request. The bottom of the ad invites readers to go watch the recording between Tutu and the Dalai Lama online.
Unfortunately for Google, Facebook isn't going anywhere. The world's most dominant social network is about to get more popular with Timeline profiles and additional app integration, letting users watch movies or read news articles directly on Facebook. However, Google retains a big advantage over Facebook in its number of businesses and services. Google+ has yet to fully leverage its properties like YouTube and Blogger, as well as its family of cloud products and Internet applications like Google Mail, Documents, and Calendars. If Google can find a way to integrate these services directly into the social network, Google+ may have the legs to catch up to Facebook.
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