Google+ vs Facebook: take your bets

c: | f: /

Google’s latest social networking buzzword is here. Is this divide and conquer or fade and die?

After the sad demise of Google Wave — which was actually pretty neat — Google are at it again in the guise of Google+. With their sights squarely on luring Facebook users off that platform to their own, I must say it feels pretty mature considering it’s only a couple of weeks old. But it’s easy to imitate; less simple to imitate and win.

The best feature by far is the concept of a Circle. In Facebook, everyone is your friend so what I post is echoed to everyone. Regardless that it’s alarming how people post such ridiculously personal things on their feeds in FB, I’ve seen many an occasion where a very young relative (or relative of a friend) posts something like:

omg got shitfaced last nite and shagged a twenty-five-year-old hunk lol

to the crooning adoration of their followers… when their own mum is in their ‘friends’ list!

In G+ that could be a thing of the past because you can segregate your circles of acquaintances into groups; colleagues, family, friends, book club members, etc and only share relevant content with any group(s).

I’m not sure it’d stop someone copying and pasting your update into their own feed which happened to include your mum — even though you can choose to prevent commenting or forwarding of posts in G+. My gut feeling, though, is that if you think it’s appropriate to post such stuff anyway, then you clearly don’t care who finds out about your underage nocturnal activities, nor that your words will be archived for a hundred years on a disk drive in a warehouse owned by the lowest bidder.

The Holy Grail of social networking?

Well, not quite. At least not yet. Its plus points include integration with the rest of the Googleverse — docs, maps, etc — so if thin client (alright, cloud computing to give its modern buzzword) is your favourite way of working, it’d be useful for collaboration.

I do, however, feel there are a few omissions that would have made sense from day one. For starters, Wave’s ability for threaded comments was terrific; the linear comment flow in both FB and G+ is less than ideal. And if threaded comments ever surface, the ability to expand/collapse conversation threads would be awesome.

Also, it’d be nice if circles could be colour-coded or in some way distinguished so that posts in your aggregate feed could be more visually distinct. At the moment, everything is… just white, so it’s not immediately obvious which circle I’ve posted to unless I choose the relevant circle from the sidebar. Colour might not be the best way to go, because I could post something to more than one circle at once and create a neopolitan wash, but some indicator might be handy.

I’m not sure if the plan is to allow Facebook style ‘Pages’ and such for companies / products, or if it’s aimed at personal users only. I guess more will be unveiled as the trial continues.

I’ve not checked out the privacy area in great detail, nor how annoying the notification system is just yet. And I’ve not really had a chance to see if their API is up to scratch, but let’s face it, Google brought Android to market and gave iOS a run for its money in a very short time frame. And whatever G+ API is out there can’t be any worse than FB’s shambles!

Gimme a G

I’m largely indifferent at the moment. So far I like Google’s grown-up approach to networking. It’s Facebookian enough to appeal to the doughnuts who broadcast every facet of their lives to the world, but it has LinkedIn’s smarts and a few Wave-like niceties thrown in to appeal to the more serious socialite.

It feels pretty robust compared to the nebulousness of Facebook: in FB, posts get swallowed, or disappear for an hour or two then resurface, or an ancient set of news items reappears in your feed, or you add someone and it takes aeons for it to reflect the changes. None of that (so far) in G+, although to be fair their database is a few orders of magnitude smaller than Facebook’s at the moment.

Time will tell if it can shake FB’s foundation or if people will use both, or if G+ goes the way of the Wave. But if anyone can do it, Google probably can.

2 muppets jibber-jabbered

    Stephan

    There is one fundamental flaw in the G+ approach: A sender may define the recipients of all his writing/liking but as a recipient I have still no means to say what I wish to get.
    If I have several close friends or family and I would like to follow them I certainly do not wish to see (or at least have the technical possibility to opt out) those updates concerning local messages (the new pizza place in Munich they favorited, the kindergarten play of one of the neighbors they attended and commented, posts about their greatest hobby: collecting stamps).

    But I also believe over time we will see those technical means to allow both sender and recipient to choose what they wish to see, maybe based on the three dimensions “person”, “geo-location”, and “tag”.

    Stef Dawson

    Hmmm, I hadn’t noticed that you could not ‘hide’ certain types of info. I saw that you could turn off notifications for certain types of event (which keeps the flak down) but I just assumed you could hide post types you didn’t care about. Like I’ve hidden all of those bloody FarmVille updates that people post in FB. Although that kills all posts from that app, not a particular person who uses that app.

    I see it’s possible to ‘mute’ a post but I don’t know exactly what that means — hide just this post/topic, or all future posts of this flavour? I don’t know how you’d be able to say “show me all updates from this person but exclude any posts about pizza parlours, but allow me to see pizza parlour notifications from other people who live closer to me!” Don’t think even Facebook goes that far.

    From a coding viewpoint, how would you go about allowing people to choose to exclude certain ‘local’ events (local to the sender) but receive other notifications by that person? I doubt keywords is the answer.

    I’ll do some more digging in G+ to find out what you can and can’t do over the coming days.

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