The row over Google+ numbers doesn't look like going away with a fresh argument having broken out over transparency.
During the recent quarterly report Larry Page indicated 170 million accounts had been "upgraded to Google+" but this information is seemingly not sufficient. Although the figure indicates a steady and substantial growth (reports have indicated 40 then 90 and now 170 million) the apparent reluctance to divulge specific visitor figures is being used to back up the claims that Google+ is a ghost town and an embarrassment.
There is still a direct comparison being made between Plus and other social networks when there is so much more to the equation. Yes, Plus has a social networking "component" which closely mirrors the likes of Facebook but this must not be taken in isolation as it is only a part of the experience.
Who is a user?
I wrote back in October that "anyone who uses a Google service and had a Google account is a potential Google+ user". This emphasises the point that Plus is a social layer across everything, or the "social spine" as Page put it.
Facebook have admitted that it considers a user "active" if they so much as click a Like button somewhere on the web even if they never visit the Facebook page itself - the same is true for Plus. Clicked a +1 button? You have used Google+. Performed a search and got social results? You have used Google+. There is no distinction but there is a double standard.
As I mentioned, Google does not have to persuade people to use a social network it just has to extol the virtues of sharing" - people may not access the Plus site directly but will still be taking advantage of its social capabilities and this makes them active. Consequently, there is no need to distinguish between those who have or haven't visited the Plus homepage.
The perception that Plus is synonymous with the social networking component persists with some unwilling to consider otherwise.
The obsession with numbers is unfortunate as the success of a "network" seems only defined by its user base; this is an outdated view for simpler times with standalone services and many - including members of the tech press who ought to know better - need to wake up to this.
Numbers are easy, numbers can tell a story. The storytellers like a simple tale to be laid out before them but is it the right one?
Chris Brogan has asked when social stats will grow up and actually give us something useful to work with. This won't happen while the majority are still working solely on the number of likes, followers, and site visitors. Online influence services serve to reinforce the problem by focusing on exactly the numbers we don't want.
As Plus is integrated into more aspects of "Google life" so more needs to be done to educate and encourage the user but, ultimately, once Google+ truly is Google the process will be seamless and we will all be Plus users.
Why not discuss this on Google + here.
Image by massdistraction