Social Networking Showdown: Facebook vs. Google+

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Social Networking Showdown: Facebook vs. Google+

Post by shanaya on July 12th 2011, 9:07 pm

Social Networking Showdown: Facebook vs. Google+

With more than 750 million active users (and heaven only knows how many people who signed up for an account one day and never came back), Facebook is the undisputed king of social networking. At least, it was undisputed until two weeks ago, when Google rolled out their latest effort to crack into the social networking space with Google+ (or Google Plus, depending on who's writing about it). Interestingly, you need to spell it out when you search for it on Google's own search engine, since the "+" sign is used to denote that you want to include both words in a group in your search.

As with so many of their projects, the Googlites attempted to create an aura of elitism around it by at first limiting participation to invited persons only, but now some are saying the new service already has a million users:
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/110712-Google-Plus

Google's intent is obviously to topple Facebook from its perch at the top of the SN pile, something that Facebook itself did to former top social networking service MySpace. In only seven years of existence, Facebook grew from a web site created by a group of Harvard computer science students. Mark Zuckerberg, the chief founder and CEO of Facebook, Inc., is said to be worth more than $13 billion at the age of 27.
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/110712-Mark-Zuckerberg

With Facebook reported to have made $2 billion in revenues (mostly from advertising) in 2010, it's obvious that the social networking arena can be lucrative.
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/110712-2Billion

Google has tried before to get into the act. Google Wave was released among much hype and hullabaloo but it fizzled pretty quickly amidst complaints from users that it was confusing and unintuitive. Google Buzz had a bit more success, but many users were annoyed by the way it integrated a bit too enthusiastically with Gmail and filled up their Inboxes. Google is hoping the third time is a charm, and that Google+ will at least siphon off a substantial portion of Facebook's user base. Does it have a chance? Some people think so:
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/110712-Google-Plus-Vs-Facebook

I've been testing Google+ for the past week, and it has some advantages - and some disadvantages - when compared to Facebook. And there's a lot that was obviously lifted directly from its rival, including the "It's complicated" choice for relationship status (G+ also gives you a choice that FB doesn't: "I don't want to say"). The much-hyped Circles feature is undisputedly useful, but it requires a bit more work on the part of the user. Now whenever you want to add a friend, you have to decide which circle(s) he/she belongs in. You start with some default circles (Friends, Acquaintances, Family, Following) and you can then create your own custom circles (for example, I made circles for Tech industry professionals, fellow Dog Owners, Law Enforcement friends, Writers, and so forth).

If this sounds a bit like the Facebook feature that allows you to create Friend Lists, it is - with a big difference: in Facebook, that's an option and it's not a very obvious one; many FB users don't even know it exists.. In Google+, it's mandatory; every person you add has to go into one or more circles. Then when you create a post, you have to pick which circles will be allowed to see it. It does annoy me that a number of reviews of G+ erroneously say this can't be done in FB.

Otherwise, posting and commenting is pretty much the same as on Facebook. That is, you can share a photo, video or link along with your post. On G+, you can also share your location with the click of an icon beside the status update field. This works similarly to the Check In feature on FB, but is quicker and easier to use. To me, the bigger improvement that Google brings to the table is the increased level of control that you have over your own posts. In FB, if you decide you want to change a few words (or notice a typo and want to correct it), you have to delete the post and rewrite it. In G+, there's a drop-down arrow button by each of your posts that gives you the choice to delete it, edit it, link to it, or you can disable comments on it if you want to put something out there but don't want people posting their responses on it, or you can block resharing if you don't want others to "steal" your brilliant words and repost them with a single click (of course, they can always copy and paste it into their update box, but that's a little more trouble). I like this flexibility a lot; it can save perfectionists like me a great deal of time.

Another "big deal" in G+ is its video chat feature, but Zuckerberg fired back quickly on that one, partnering with Skype to provide video chat within Facebook, a week after the debut of G+.
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/110712-Facebook-Skype

The biggest difference between the two, at least at the moment, is that the FB/Skype combo allows you to conduct video calls with only one person at a time. G+ gives you more of a videoconferencing experience, with the ability to chat with a group of up to ten people.
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/110712-Google-Plus-Hangouts

This is called "hangouts" and it creates a virtual "room" where you can "hang out" with other webcam-equipped friends. Sounds a bit like AOL chat rooms on steroids to me and I envision lots of teenagers (not to mention adult spouses) getting into a lot of trouble with this feature. However, I also can see how (if not for the unfortunate name) it could be a very useful business tool. In fact, Google may have a big advantage if they try to target business and professional users with their new social network. That's because they're starting with a blank slate, and don't have the bad rep that Facebook has in some circles where it's seen as a venue where users so often make fools of themselves by posting drunken photos or profanity-riddled rants that air their dirty laundry for the world to see. This actually might be a more successful strategy than taking on Zuckerberg's monolith face-to-face.

However, there's no indication that Google plans to approach it that way. Instead, they seem to be challenging FB directly. But how many of FB's 750 million users will switch (or maintain dual accounts)? We extreme techy types who make up G+'s beta users are always eager to try out something new, but I don't think we represent the typical FB user. Many people have a great deal of time and effort invested in building their FB pages. They use FB for their photo and video sharing, as a replacement for forum/discussion participation, even as a substitute for email in many cases. I would find it hard to give up FB because there is a lot of information there that I frequently go back and "mine," within the comments or private messages. This user investment makes it as hard to "throw away" your Facebook account as tossing out that cigar box full of old photos and love letters.

That makes a case for using both services (perhaps for different purposes - e.g., maintain a FB account for keeping in touch with family and casual friends, and use G+ for communicating with professional colleagues in a more intimate way than LinkedIn allows. Many folks, though, don't want to take the time to maintain multiple social networking accounts, just as they don't want to deal with having several different email accounts as I do.

As I wrote in a discussion (on Facebook!) about this, it seems most people today want things to be extremely simple, even at the cost of flexibility or quality (hence the popularity of locked-down Apple products). Even a small "hassle factor" deters them from adopting something new - but they will stick with something familiar despite its level of hassle because switching isn't simple. When I put out a message on Facebook telling my friends to email me if they wanted to be invited to G+, almost everyone who responded was a techie. The rest didn't seem to be very interested. They have something that works for them and although they might get frustrated with its quirks at times, they don't want to bother with starting over with something else.

Finally, I think the biggest obstacle G+ has to overcome has to do with trust. I hear from newsletter readers all the time who say they don't trust Google with their information. Now, I'm not sure why they think Facebook is inherently more trustworthy; my philosophy is "If you would be mortified to see it on the front page of your local newspaper, don't post it on any social network." But the problem with Google isn't just about security or privacy. Because they have come out with so many new services and products and then killed them, many people don't trust that G+ will still be around a year or five years from now, so they don't want to commit to it. Google has its fingers in a lot of pies, whereas Facebook does this one thing and does it, if perhaps not extremely well, well enough. People may not trust FB about privacy, but they do trust that it's going to stay around.

Of course, with Microsoft's recent acquisition of Skype, its previous investment in Facebook and its heated rivalry with Google in search, web-based productivity apps and other spaces, we know which side they're on.
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/110712-Microsoft-Facebook

Tell us what you think. Does the world need yet another social network? What new features would make it compelling? If you're a G+ beta tester, what do you like and not like about the new service? If you're a Facebook user, are you tempted to switch to Google+ or to set up and maintain "dual citizenship?" Should Google try to build a different following, such as business users, rather than compete in exactly the same space where FB currently reigns? Let us know your opinions and thoughts in our forum at
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/110712-Forum
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Re: Social Networking Showdown: Facebook vs. Google+

Post by baldwindeb on July 13th 2011, 10:37 am

I am still trying to get use to it. I want all my friends from FB there though.
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Re: Social Networking Showdown: Facebook vs. Google+

Post by shanaya on July 13th 2011, 2:32 pm

Yeah, basically most friends to reply on the invite post I made on FB are from my techie friends. Family or non tech friends will be harder to convince.
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Re: Social Networking Showdown: Facebook vs. Google+

Post by Carl D on July 14th 2011, 8:16 pm

Oh, heck.

Facebook!!!

I was supposed to sign up again, wasn't I? Damn..

I'll see what I can do when I get everything set up properly in this new place.

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Re: Social Networking Showdown: Facebook vs. Google+

Post by shanaya on July 15th 2011, 8:45 am

If you have a gmail account, Carl I can send you a Google + invite. I am liking it there better than Facebook. :-)
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Re: Social Networking Showdown: Facebook vs. Google+

Post by Carl D on July 29th 2011, 7:38 pm

Thanks, Shawna. Sorry I'm so late getting back to you.

This is one I used for work.

bowlingtechwa(at)gmail.com

I didn't put the @ in so spammers' harvesting programs don't pick it up. lol.

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Re: Social Networking Showdown: Facebook vs. Google+

Post by budozero on July 31st 2011, 4:42 am

but but but... do we reeeeeealy need google+? :p

Oh and thanks to carl, a spammer somewhere out there is now emailing 'the @ in xD'
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Re: Social Networking Showdown: Facebook vs. Google+

Post by shanaya on August 4th 2011, 6:19 pm

lol!
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