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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Facebook vs Google+

By now, you have probably heard of Google+, a new social networking system to rival (or not) Facebook.

There are a lot of similarities, and some differences are not much different.

Below is an excerpt from WXP News Social Networking Showdown: Facebook vs. Google+

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+.

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.
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.

One issue that is left out of the article is the user base. For social networking systems to work, your friends and potential friends have to be using it too. If they are not, it's useless. Currently, Google+ has about 70 million users worldwide. Facebook has about 750 million users.

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