How many people must join Google+ before Facebook totally freaks out (or has it already)?

Search giant's new social network reportedly up to 18 million users in less than a month

A couple of days ago I noted that Lady Gaga has more Twitter followers (11.7 million) than Google+ has members (10 million).

I wasn't putting down Google+ -- which, at the time, had been up for all of three weeks -- as much as I was trying to get some cheap page views by mentioning Lady Gaga (which I've now done twice in this post!).

(Also see: Google+ 'celebrity acquisition plan' = 'idiot acquisition plan')

But now I'm reading reports that Google+ is up to 18 million users. In less than four weeks! That's pretty impressive.

It's tempting (and probably fairly accurate) to attribute this initial surge of sign-ups to:

Hardcore tech geeks

Social networking junkies


Self-promoting social media "gurus"

Genuinely curious early adopters


Still, 18 million is 18 million. That being said, it's a far cry from Facebook's self-proclaimed total of 750 million members.

Given Google's social networking failures (Wave and Buzz), perhaps it's tempting for Facebook not to take Google+ entirely seriously, more of a flavor of the summer.

I think that would be a mistake because this feels different. And not just because of the impressive early numbers. A lot of Google+ users say they really like the service, and compare it favorably to Facebook. You didn't get that with Wave or Buzz.

In addition, we're seeing cracks in the Facebook facade. Not only did Facebook recently rank dead last among all websites -- not just social media -- measured by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, it reportedly lost nearly 6 million users in the U.S. in May and hundreds of thousands in several other countries.

That latter news was troubling enough to Facebook investors -- who have been busy pimping what they hope will be the Mother of All Internet IPOs -- that they (in my opinion) blatantly tried to bury the story with a same-day B.S. leak to CNBC about how Facebook's IPO will give the company a $100 billion valuation.

Not one bit of information in that article was new, but the fantasy $100 billion figure (from an anonymous source) was made for headlines, so it soon pushed the "Facebook Fatigue" news down on Google search. Mission accomplished.

But that's the bloodless investors trying to protect their big payday. What I'm wondering is whether Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is worried yet about Google+. Zuckerberg appears to eat, um, confidence for breakfast (after he kills it with his bare hands), so maybe not. On the other hand, clearly he's no idiot.

Facebook already is banning ads for Google+ on its own pages, but that could be more policy than panic.

Since 100 seems to be some kind of magic number for Facebook (and headline writers), I'm guessing that if Google+ hits 100 million users -- particularly if it does so before the end of the year -- it will be freak-out time at Facebook. Especially if Facebook continues bleeding active members.

And rightly so. Not only will the media be all over it, casual Facebook users who might not be in love with the service might be prompted to check out the new kid on the social networking block. Of such things tipping points are made.

Myspace can tell you how that story ends.

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