Google has revamped its Google+ social network and released new figures claiming 170 million people use it, but critics say the figure is inflated and Google is losing the social battle to Facebook.

The new look, which emerged today, includes a customisable  “ribbon” of buttons down the left hand side of the screen, more space to include pictures from elsewhere, and feeds of popular content elsewhere on Google+. However, even after seeing Facebook slated for forcing its Timeline redesign on users, Google was criticised for giving no warning that the new version was coming. And the usage figures – even if genunine – fall far short of Facebook’s 850 million.

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Google reckons that 170 million people have “upgraded” to Google+ accounts, up by 80 million since the last figures were announced in January. However, critics point out that most of these could be people who have been given a Google+ profile when registering for another service, and have no intention to use it.

“In January, Google made Google+ account creation mandatory when users signed up for other Google services,” said Miranda Miller of Search Engine Watch. “We still patiently wait for actual engagement statistics, though we’re not holding our breath.”

Google’s response is a claim that 100 million users have “engaged” with the service at least once in the last month, and 50m are on there every day.

“Today’s Google+ update extends beyond navigation, the stream and hangouts,” said Google vice president Vic Gundotra in a blog post. “For instance: there’s a new Explore page that shows what’s interesting and trending across the network. And a new profile with much bigger photos. And a new chat list that puts your friends front and center.”

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Peter Judge

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

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