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Google+ is struggling to retain interest from users who sign-up to the social network.

Figures seen by the LA Times suggest that the number of punters using Google's service, which hooks into a person's Gmail profile and functions as a contender to Facebook, is haphazardly dialling up occasionally and down often.

Hitwise told the newspaper that US traffic to Google+ had fallen in 11 of the 21 weeks since the company launched the network in June this year. It has seen regular dips in interest from users by as much as 10 per cent to 20 per cent depending on the week.

Meanwhile, Google is very secretive about its user metrics - a fact that allows critics to assume the worst about the service. The company only opened Google+ to all-comers in September. Before that it tried to market the service as a sexy online estate by offering access on an invite-only basis.

Inevitably, at the point when Google+ became available to everyone in September, the site had its best week in terms of visitors.

According to Hitwise, the stats leapt at that point from about one million sign-ins in a single week to a 15 million high for Google+, based on numbers that don't include mobile traffic or traffic from the Google Notification Bar.

But the ad broker failed to hold on to those visitors, who apparently didn't want to commit to Google+.

As noted by the LA Times, the social network now has around 6.8 million US users who regularly plug into the site. That means around half of the people who dropped in when it was first opened to the public haven't returned.

However, it remains early days and the company is continuously adding new features to the product. It also recently opened the network up to businesses, although some big names are playing the waiting game.

Bank of America was brandjacked on the site late last week, because it failed to own its Google+ identity, for example.

"Last week Google+ recorded its third largest week in terms of total US visits for the week ending Nov 12, 2011 receiving more than 6.8 million total US visits," said Hitwise.

"The growth represents a five per cent increase versus the previous week and a 25 per cent increase compared to a month ago. The recent growth could possibly be attributed to several new announcements that have come out recently."

Perhaps Google+ will steadily begin to retain visitors and eventually build up a userbase that Google boss Larry Page will be proud of. It's silly, however, to compare - as some commentators have done - the birth of Google+ with that of Facebook when it comes to measuring user stats, which take a while to settle down into some sort of pattern.

One need only listen to Google execs to understand that Google+ shouldn't be distinguished too heavily from the rest of the Chocolate Factory floor. It's an extension of all that exists in Google's dominant web world, they insist. But if true, shouldn't Google+ have many more users by now? ®

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