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Google+ Visitors’ Time Spent on Service Stalls, Hitwise Says

The amount of time U.S. users spend on Google Inc. (GOOG)’s new social network has grown more slowly in recent weeks, according to Experian Hitwise, indicating that the service may struggle to make headway against Facebook Inc.

Users on average spent 5 minutes and 47 seconds on Google+ during the week ended Aug. 27, up about 4 percent from the previous week, according to New York-based Experian Hitwise, which tracks Internet statistics. Time spent on the site peaked in the week of July 16, at 5 minutes, 50 seconds, Hitwise said.

Google+ is the company’s latest effort to help it compete against Palo Alto, California-based Facebook, the world’s most popular social site. While the new service offers some good features for sharing content with friends, Facebook is an entrenched rival with more than 750 million users, said Charlene Li, an analyst with Altimeter Group in San Mateo, California.

“The people that you’d want to add are in many cases very happy on Facebook and they don’t want to have another social network,” Li said.

U.S. visits to Google+ fell 5.5 percent to 1.16 million during the week ended Aug. 27, after rising 2.6 percent the previous week, according to Experian Hitwise. The company had gained 283 percent the week ended July 16. Still, Google hasn’t opened up the service to everyone yet, so it’s too early to judge user numbers, said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Stamford, Connecticut-based Gartner Inc.

Limited Access

“Google says this is a limited field trial,” he said. “Early reactions from people who have used the service seem very, very positive. But we’re talking about a service that hasn’t been widely opened up, that most consumers can’t get access to.”

Google+, designed to help users better share information, debuted in a trial version on June 28 by invitation only. The service relies on a tool called Circles, which lets members communicate with limited sets of friends, rather than blasting everyone in their network.

The company has been working since then to add more features. Earlier this month, Google+ rolled out a games service with developers such as Zynga Inc. and Rovio Entertainment Oy, creator of the hit “Angry Birds.”

Google said today that it hasn’t released any new Google+ statistics for this month. More than 10 million people have joined the service since its debut in June, the Mountain View, California-based company said.

Experian Hitwise’s research methods, which rely on visits to websites, don’t include mobile users or times when people access the service from the black notification bar running across the top of Google.com.

Google rose 26 cents to $540.96 at 4 p.m. New York time on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The shares have fallen 8.9 percent this year.

To contact the reporters on this story: Brian Womack in San Francisco at bwomack1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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