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When Google Developer Advocate Don Dodge stated back at the beginning of December that the “Any numbers you’ve heard are way low” and Google+ VP, Product, Bradley Horowitz claimed in a live hang out in December that the “News about Google+ sign ups will shock everybody”, we were expecting bigger things.

In today's socially focused global internet , we would anticipate a significantly higher number of new sign-ups from a service as integral to web users’ daily lives as Google is, than the 50m in three months announced yesterday.

Based on the GWI.6 research carried out in November 2011, which established that 22% of active social network users had an account on Google+, we translated that into 145m active social network users on the network (based on the method we use to calculate our universe sizes).

We understand the confusion this significant difference might raise, but until Google provide some clarity on what a Larry Page’s definition of an active user is – as well as an idea of the source and methodology, we stand by this figure. We are also looking forward to the next wave GWI.7, which will commence fieldwork in February, to provide extra benchmarks on Google+ adoption and growth.

Publishers and services with advertising to sell, investors to keep happy or IPOs to prepare normally look to post the highest number possible and our active user figures are always lower than what is claimed, which makes the Google figure more puzzling.

Of course, sometimes publishers don’t actually know how many users they have, as we discovered in the IPO Prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the US by a large social property:

“Given the challenges inherent in identifying these accounts, we do not have a reliable system to accurately identify the number of actual members, and thus we rely on the number of registered members as our measure of the size of our network.”

That is why we run independent research, which is better placed to benchmark consumer involvement and well favoured by advertisers and agencies.

Nevertheless, GWI will deliver updated research throughout 2012 and we will be returning to this topic and reviewing our future results in the same detailed manner as always.

The simple fact for marketers is that Google increasingly owns and controls all key access points to the internet, from browsers, to search, to social, to mobile, something we cover in our GWI.6 trend report, which is out next week. For marketers, Google+ involvement is a must.

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