The 90 million ghosts of Google+
I hate reading about a startup’s number of “registered users.” Essentially, it’s a puffed-up metric designed to demonstrate how awesome the company is doing.
And the media eats that crap up, because writers often don’t know any better. My, that’s a very big number. Let’s publish!
The problem is, it’s bullshit. Most “registered users” don’t stick around. You know what I’m talking about — how many Web services have you signed up for, accessed once or twice, then forgot? How many apps have you downloaded, checked out, then deleted?
I checked out Pinterest exactly once. I’ll probably never visit it again, and certainly not on a regular basis. Still, I’m registered. As are millions of others like me.
A count of “registered users” is a number with no value.
Active users are the real currency.
Active users tell us of continuing interest in the services provided, beyond mere curiosity. The growth of active users tells us that a service or product may have a real future.
But startups report the bigger, empty number with steeper growth curves because they need to look as successful as possible in order to survive to the next round of funding. Part of doing that is to get the media talking about you. One way to get the media talking about you is to report impressive-sounding — but ultimately useless — numbers.
Google, however, is no startup. So it’s sad that the people behind Google+ keep saying that the social network currently has “over 90 million registered users.” According to Amir Efrati of the Wall Street Journal in his piece, “The Mounting Minuses at Google+”:
“It turns out Google+ is a virtual ghost town compared with the site of rival Facebook…. New data from research firm comScore Inc. shows that Google+ users are signing up — but then not doing much there.”
“Visitors using personal computers spent an average of about three minutes a month on Google+ between September and January, versus six to seven hours on Facebook each month over the same period, according to comScore, which didn’t have data on mobile usage.”
With 90 million registered users spending minutes on its social network, I wonder if Google is even able to provide an active user number that was over four digits?
Let’s compare with Facebook. Obviously, FB is doing great, so they provide the number of its active users. (Whether or not you agree with how FB measures this number, it is still provides a much more accurate picture of the health and interest in FB than any “registered user” number can.)
Reporting you have 90 million registered users tells us that 90 percent of your 90 million users are ghosts, Google — they aren’t of your world, and they make no impressions.
(Update: More Google+ numbers shenanigans. Hope I spelled “shenanigans” right.)