Google+ Overtakes Twitter
January 28, 2013

Google+ Passes Twitter, Becomes Second Largest Social Network

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

As of the end of 2012, Google+ has officially overtaken Twitter as the world´s second largest social network after Facebook, according to British research firm Trendstream and their Global Web Index. Facebook, the “social network” giant, remains the largest social media service in the world, and reportedly is used by more than 51 percent of the world´s online population.

The Global Web Index for the final quarter of last year estimated Facebook has 693 million active users, while Google+ now has 343 million active users. The number three most used social media service was actually YouTube, followed by Twitter, which had 288 million active users. The study did not actually count the total number of users, however, but active users on a monthly basis.

Nearly as many Twitter users also fall into the “none of above” category, which suggests a large percentage of Internet users are simply not “social” at all.

And “active” appears to be subjective. While Google+ is now the second largest social network, it hardly has the activity of other sites. For instance, Google+ doesn´t have nearly the same level of contributions as Facebook, nor the interaction of YouTube and not even micro-blogging ala Twitter.

“I think that Google+ is working particularly hard to address this, and Google+ contribution is becoming increasingly important as Google ties search, along with all of their other services, together with Google+ being the glue that binds them all,” said Brett Petersen, consulting director of Global Web Index.

What the growth of these large social networks is also doing is decimating the local and regional social media sites, up to 57 percent in the case of those in China. Regional networks such as China´s Weibo, RenRen and Qzone have seen monthly user bases decline by as much as 50 percent in 2012.

And just because Facebook is on top today doesn´t mean the leading social network isn´t going to succumb to some “Facebook fatigue.” Even as the company went public last year, it was facing fatigue and saturation. Facebook continues to look for ways to grow, notably on mobile where it trails such rivals as Twitter.

The micro-blogging service, which is known for its 140-character “tweets,” also has looked to expand. Last week it announced its ultra-short video content app Vine. Twitter has also long supported YouTube videos and Vine now allows users to host video content as well. But it is clear from the inter-connectivity of these sites, users rely on more than one service and the social media world remains somewhat interconnected.

There is also another factor to consider — what actually defines “active,” as in "active user". As Forbes noted this week, “every action that you take logged in as [a] social network´s user can make you an ℠active user.´” This is notable as Facebook has a way to sign in to leave a comment on many news websites, while Google has in fact — as noted — merged its account system, so YouTube, Docs, etc. are part of a single account.

Thus, many Internet users may be considered more socially active than they actually are.