Google+ and Facebook both storming ahead

By September 27, 2011Facebook, Google

Despite recent commentary to the contrary it seems very clear to me that both Google+ and Facebook are making great progress.  (For negative commentary see Google+ … ‘Worse than a ghost town’ on MediaShift and At last, we’re logging back on to the real world from our old friends at the Daily Mail.)

The case for Facebook is made crystal clear by the chart below.  Even in their most mature market, the US, they are still showing great growth as measured by market share of time spent online.  Note this is a different (and better) measure than number of subscribers or active users as it also takes time on site into account.  In countries like the US Facebook must be pretty close to saturation in terms of user numbers, so their growth going forward will come from increasing the utility of the service to drive up frequency of logins and length of session.  Most (if not all) of the features announced at f8 last week will improve both these metrics.  Personally, I’m using Facebook much more to now that I have curated lists of people to follow, and I’m checking the top right hand box in my profile to see what people are listening to on Spotify so often that I’m thinking about turning it off 🙂

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Google+ is earlier in it’s evolution, and the jury is still out on the long term viability of the service, but I bet they are pleased with the progress so far.  Growth has been staggering in the last couple of weeks, with traffic up 1,269% in the last seven days, and 50m users now on the service.  To put that in context Google+ has been live for 88 days, whilst it took Facebook and Twitter over three years to reach that milestone.  Moreover, Google will increasingly use Google+ profiles in its search engine results page, encouraging people to populate their profiles and post their content to Google+.  I updated my Google+ profile this morning after discovering it is the fourth result if you search on ‘brisbourne’, and I’m still thinking about whether I should syndicate my blog there.

For me though Facebook is still far the better service, both for reading and publishing content.

Big picture, it is great that these two companies are fighting each other on the basis of innovation, but the way these juggernauts use their existing reach to drive new features means that new startups need to find ways to partner with them and live within their ecosystems.  All out competition to Facebook and Google from socially oriented startups is getting harder and harder.  The speed with which Google got to 50m users and the fact they got there via home page promotion is evidence of this point in spades. 

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