Google+, the six-month-old site on which Google has pinned its social networking hopes and dreams, will have 400 million users within a year.
That's the bullish prediction made by Paul Allen, the founder of Ancestry.com and a self-described "unofficial statistician" for Google+.
Allen wrote in a post on Google+ that, according to his calculations, the social network has surpassed 62 million users and is adding 625,000 people each day, a number he expects will grow and help Google+ to reach 400 million users by this time next year.
Allen argues that the pace at which Google+ adds new members will speed up as more users join the service.
"I expect the growth to continue to accelerate however," Allen wrote. "Google can continue to integrate Google+ into its other products and word of mouth will continue to build. Most importantly, 700,000 Android devices are activated daily and this will become a very significant source of new users for Google+. That number will also grow next year."
Google has been mum about the size of Google+'s userbase since October, when Google CEO Larry Page announced that Google+ had surpassed 40 million members. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on Allen's estimates.
Though the overall population of Google+ users may be growing, the number of active members on the site offers a more accurate barometer of its success, as TechCrunch's Eric Eldon notes, and in this regard, little is known. By comparison, Facebook, the world's largest social networking site, claims to have over 800 million active users, while Twitter boasts more than 100 million active accounts. Reaching 400 million users will mean little to Google+'s sustained growth if only a fraction of those individuals return regularly to the site -- just ask Myspace.
Conflicting reports of Google+'s health have emerged. Google+ has been dubbed "worse than a ghost town" because of the lack of activity on the site, while Chitika, an analytics company, found that Google+ traffic had waned following a temporary peak in September when the social networking site was opened to all users.
As TechCrunch reports, comScore, a research firm, recently estimated that Google+ had reached 66.7 million unique monthly visitors -- ahead of Myspace, with 61 million, but far behind LinkedIn (94.8 million), Twitter (167.9 million), and Facebook, which had over ten times more visitors (around 793 million).
Google has made efforts to integrate Google+ into its existing offerings and put the social network front and center in people's inboxes, search results and on their phones. Google+ is accessible directly from Gmail and also appears at the top of all Google searches. Every blue link that shows up in Google search results has a "+1" button that allows users to publicly endorse a site on Google+.
While Google+ has been branded a Facebook rival, interviews with Google+ users, as we wrote here, suggest the site is serving a different need. Whereas Facebook is a social network that fosters connections between people who already know each other, users say Google+ provides an interest network where people can connect with strangers who share their interests. Maybe this will give Google+ an edge.
For more on Google+, check out our guide to Google+ tips for newbies.