It’s new, and hip, and impossible (for the moment) to get an invite… but is it different and should I care?
Google+ is getting a lot of buzz right now. Some people are claiming that Google+ is just the same sorta social network Facebook is and all the hoopla is about it just something that isn’t Facebook. Other’s are claiming that it’s a redesign of what a social network should be and you should be flocking over to it. What is Google+ and why should I leave (or stay) Facebook for it?
Both have chat/messaging systems, group chatting systems, sharing features, profiles, apps; the list goes on. At the heart of it, they are indeed both just social networks. Luckily for companies, that rarely matters. It’s the execution and priorities that make or break a service. As such Facebook and Google are both taking different takes on it.
Facebook, as a social network, has been around for a while and as such has a HUGE database of members. It’s socially acceptable pretty much by everyone to have a Facebook account. Old friends from high school, current friends, relatives, co-workers, businesses, and even your boss is on Facebook. With that database it’s incredibly easy to find people who you’ve lost touch with and them with you. Along with that Facebook takes it a step further and fins your old friends for you based on the friends, groups, and networks you already have. Very convenient.
The idea of Facebook started with just looking for friends (in fact you had to have a .edu account originally) but has grown to much more than that. Unfortunately with those growing pains, It’s expanded beyond what a simple single list system could handle. It’s no longer just about friends, but about everyone you know; your friends, relatives, co-workers. All those connections getting muddled together. It’s a party and everyone you know has been invited. And as anyone ever hosted a huge party, you know what a problem that can be.
Google has the advantage of not having all this backlog of design and the ability of seeing all the issues that Facebook has tried to design around. Google’s solution is essentially a Venn diagram (oh be still my geeky heart) of your relationships. You have circles within circles of all your contacts. You drag and drop them into how you interact with them. Your friends are your friends, your co-workers are separate, and your family is in another. Some overlap, some exist by themselves. It almost seems that this was what Facebook was trying to do with lists and groups. Google just seems to been able to handle it better, since it’s not starting with one big list.
Google also has integration with its search engine. Yes this may sound unfair, Google has been doing search for years, but it’s still valid. It fully integrates the “+1” system in a way that Facebook’s “like” system seem lacking. It can take that information and pull together news stories, blog posts anything that you’ve liked and combine it into something very useful to browse the internet with.
Not that all is rosy for Goggle. It’s severely lacking a way to make use of photos, a key element that Facebook has almost perfected. Tagging and identifying your friends is a snap and widely understood by most people who use the service. Google doesn’t have the game, or app infrastructure that Facebook has helped developed over the years. Google is missing places for people to congregate in anything resembling organizations (although group chats and sharing comes close and probably can be tweaked to fit).
So where does that leave us in the end? For the most part… it is indeed just another social network. The sacristy of invites and tech envy are bringing massive push for people to become part of the network. Eventually we will come to see Google+ more as a collaboration social network with documents, information environment, contact collaboration “formal” social network; while Facebook will be more a “group party” environment with apps, games, and daily “here’s my kid” posts. They’ll be some overlapping, but they will both have different priorities and different ways of handling the same subjects.
How to look at the services for now? Can’t say it any better than XKCD did: