Tag Archives: Google

Google+ is not Facebook

This is a guest post from Nathan Statz aka @Sephyre.

There has been a lot of people throwing around ‘Google+ doesn’t seem to be happening’ or ‘I don’t see Google+ taking off’ of late. Usually this will be a Facebook junkie who thought Google+ was going to be this magical land that replicated Zuckerberg’s playground with a different logo at the top.

A no-talent hack writer over at Forbes went so far as to write a eulogy for Google’s upstart social network. There’s no need to point out what is wrong with the author wondering why nothing was happening on his Google+ stream, because he was smacked down by such a large collection of G+ users that he already wrote a retraction of sorts.

The thing is Google+ isn’t Facebook, and it’s not trying to be. Do you remember way back when you first started out with Facebook? You might have been one of the millions (myself included) that had a MySpace account, but your eyes started bleeding from all the animated gifs and bright colours. By comparison, Facebook was a grown up, clutter-free, and simple paradise to do all the things you could do on MySpace. It also didn’t have the stigma of being ‘for teenagers’. Suddenly being on a social network wasn’t just something kids do, it was starting to become mainstream.

When you started building your Facebook up, likely you added your real life friends, imported a few contacts from Hotmail or Yahoo, and used the feature to find other people that went to the same high school you did, or were in that university club you liked so much. Not only were you connecting with your mates, you were reconnecting with those you hadn’t seen for ages. It was like going to your school reunion, only without the awkward small-talk and forced smiles.

Now that almost everyone is established on Facebook, it’s always going to be tough for a new social network to lure people to it. LinkedIn did it by focusing on building professional relationships, and Twitter did it by focusing on small amounts of information and nothing else.

Even with Twitter’s popularity, it’s nothing compared to Facebook. There is still that reluctance for a lot of people to embrace Twitter, I myself took a while before I ‘got’ what all the fuss was about.

When Google+ first opened the floodgates and throngs of people poured in, there was thundering herd of Facebook fanatics that expected everything to be the same. They no doubt make up a large chunk of that ’25 million’ figure that is floated around all the time, but they also never really tried Google+.

It’s kind of like logging onto Facebook for the first time, wondering why all of your MySpace friends aren’t there telling you how great their background update is, and then never logging in again because ‘it’s not happening’.

You have to put a sliver of effort into populating your Google+ stream, but once it’s up and going, it’s so much cleaner, bloat-free, and just generally better than Facebook.

A lot of the confusion comes from the Google+ ‘circles’. I never quite understood what was so hard to get with that. I only have two circles. I have ‘Friends’ which is basically a copy of my Facebook contacts, and ‘Acquaintances’, which is for all the folks that have come across from Twitter, or I have found posting interesting things on Google+.

To be honest I just post everything to ‘All Circles’, but if I got around to putting up holiday photos, which I have to Facebook in the past, I would send that out to my ‘Friends’ circle.

In effect Google+’s circles let you use the network however you want. It gives you all the functionality of Facebook without random updates about how ‘Soandso needs 50 magical beans for ‘ or how ‘Otherguy got a high score on ‘.

When I first signed up to Google+ I wasn’t expecting much. I usually sign up to whatever social media network is getting hyped, grab my username, and then never log into it again. It took me a couple of years to start getting into Twitter, even longer for LinkedIn, but something about Google+ reached past my social media fatigue to motivate me to actually post and interact.

Maybe it’s the lack of bloat, maybe it’s the fact that it posts all the information anyone posts without an edgerank, or maybe it’s just the fact that it isn’t Facebook.

Facebook scams users to keep up with Twitter in the real time search war.

In a previous post I discussed the reasons why Facebook couldn’t win the real time search war with Twitter. Namely because of the advantage Twitter has with mobile clients. Facebook has come along in leaps and bounds since then, with the release of the Facebook 3.0 app for the iPhone a particularly strong offering. Even my platform of choice, Windows Mobile has a perfectly functional, albeit poor looking Facebook app available.

The one area I didn’t cover in my previous post, was perhaps the most critical factor to Facebook competing with Twitter in the real time search market. Facebook as a platform has since it’s inception, been an inherently closed social network. People need to be part of your network before they can gain access to your information, either by being by being a friend directly, or belonging to your extended network should you have chosen to allow “friends of friends” get access to your information.

Twitter on the other hand, is an open platform by default. Sure users can opt to restrict access to their tweets, but for the most part, this is counter to the workings of Twitter. If people can’t find you by seeing you participate in conversations with others, you don’t exist to them. Which limits your “Twitter experience” considerably.

As a result, Twitter generates considerable amounts of publicly searchable information every second. Whereas Facebook is stuck with it’s data being in silos around each individual that are inaccessible to the general public. In order to make this information available to search engines to provide meaningful results (and more importantly generate revenues from Bing/Google in the process)  it is *vital* for Facebook to change from a closed social networking platform. To a more open one, at least in regards to peoples wall posts (that which provides the best real time data).

This week Facebook offered it’s users what they called a ‘Transition tool’ to manage the transition to the new structure of the privacy settings. The tool itself is illustrated below by a screenshot taken by @beaney.

Facebook Privacy Settings Update

Now what this transition tool offered was the new default options for each setting for Facebook on the left, and a column of radio buttons on the right to allow you to select to keep your old settings if it was different from the new default. Instead of allowing users to select from all the  privacy levels for each  option, they only permitted the default (for the primary options this was the most permissive ‘everyone’ option) or the existing setting. Nothing in between.

Surely Facebook could have offered drop down boxes as with their normal privacy options menu, and simply listed the previously used setting next to each option and allowed the users freedom of choice. But no, this is a deceptive move on Facebooks behalf to scam its users into opening up their data so that Bing and Google can mine it and pay Facebook for the privilege.

Coinciding with this change in privacy settings for Facebook was an announcement not long ago that Facebook and Microsoft had ‘inked a deal’ to index all of Facebook users data. Obviously it is in Facebook’s financial interests to push users into opening up their status updates, but doing so in such a deceptive way will only result in users over-sharing and exposing themselves to risks unknowingly such as having their payoffs cut off when insurers see pictures of them on Facebook ‘smiling’. I expect Facebook’s response to such incidents as being “well the user opted in to up opening their profile” which may be true, but is unscrupulous and not the sort of behavior I would expect from the company.

You can do better Mark Zuckerberg. You evangelise the user experience with Facebook, but you have let your users down with this one.