Some still contend that Google+ is a ghost town, a social playground largely devoid of active participants. Others, like Google's Senior Vice President Vic Gundotra, see Google+ as "the fastest-growing network thingy ever." Backing up his claim with numbers, Gundotra claims Google+ is home to 500 million people overall and 235 million active users who are +1ing apps, hanging out in Gmail, and connecting with friends in search. Some 135 million are active in just the stream, Vundotra says.
His comments are found in part of a blog post announcing new Google+ Communities, which is the sultan of search's equivalent to Facebook Groups.
"During the holidays we reconnect with loved ones and rediscover what makes us tick," Vundotra says . "And it's times like these that remind me why we started Google+ in the first place: to make online sharing as meaningful as the real thing. Too often our online tools miss the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions, and Google+ aims to fix this. Fortunately we've got a vibrant community to guide us."
Communities range from photography to astronomy and everything in between, including "things that are waaay out there." Membership to these Communities can be public or private, and can be shared with the +1 button across the web.
If you want to see for yourself, you can click on the new Communities icon that's rolling out today, and then create your own or join an existing one. As currently implemented, the Communities feature is just a preview, and there's no mobile version, though that's coming soon, Gundotra says.