Can Google+ really do it ? See off Facebook, that is? That was the question last night as Google's challenger to Facebook was reported to be growing at an astonishing 625,000 users per day - and could could reach 400 million users by the end of 2012.
That would still be only half the 800 million users Facebook claims worldwide. But it is still a remarkable turnaround for Google+, launched at the end of June, which was not getting rave reviews even a month ago.
The "400 million" prediction came from Paul Allen, Ancestry.com founder and "unofficial statistician" for Google+.
Writing on his blog - which appeared on Google - Allen said Google+ was adding new users "at a very rapid pace."
"It may be the holidays, the TV commercials, the Android 4 signups, celebrity and brand appeal, or positive word of mouth, or a combination of all these factors, but there is no question that the number of new users signing up for Google+ each day has accelerated markedly in the past several weeks."
He added, "What is really remarkable is that nearly 1/4th of all Google+ users (24.01% to be precise) will have joined in December alone."
Allen said that if new signups continue at just 625k daily then Google+ will reach 100 million users on Feb. 25th and 200 million users on August 3. At that rate they will finish 2012 with 293 million users.
" I expect the growth to continue to accelerate however. I predict that 2012 is going to be a breakout year for Google+ and that it will end next year with more than 400 million users."
Allen said that most importantly, 700,000 Android devices were being activated daily. " This will become a very significant source of new users for Google+. That number will also grow next year.
"As more users sign up, the value of the network will increase for everyone. The network effect will become powerful."
As share prices fell in the US yesterday, Google stock at one point hit a 52-week high . It finished the day at $639.70.