After the launch of Google+ and its ensuing attendant fanfare and rave reviews, Facebook seemed to undergo an identity crisis. On July 6th, Facebook failed to make waves with its "awesome" announcement - the new group chat and video chat features felt lame in comparison to the Google+ hangout and huddle features. Facebook also faced ongoing criticism for its perceived lack of privacy controls. Over on Quora, workers confirmed a lockdown of sorts at Facebook, for employees to work harder on features.
Today, Facebook announced a whole slew of updated features that seem to take cues from Google+, and to answer the critics who have taken Facebook to task for privacy issues. These features will be rolling out to all users within the next week.
Finally, Facebook users will have greater control over their profiles. As in Google+, you can choose who you want to view your posts, whether it should be public, or limited to friends, or a specified group of people. Facebook users can review and approve or reject any photos or posts they've been tagged in before it's visible to other people.
This ability to approve and reject tags is a genius move for Facebook. It removes one of the most contentious privacy issues—before, if you didn't like a photo you were tagged in, you would have to manually find the picture and remove the tag yourself. This way, you can approve of the content first before you allow yourself to be tagged.
Note: It was pointed out to me that declining tags removes it from visibility on your profile, and not from Facebook itself. The tag itself is not removed.
Another cool feature is the "View Profile As..." Although this feature may seem like a Google+ clone, it is currently available, but it's just more hidden. You have to navigate to Facebook's privacy settings page, select "Customize settings", and then click on "Preview My Profile". With the new rollout, the "View Profile As..." button is placed on your profile page.
Sharing isn't new to Facebook, and neither is the ability to control who you can share with. What is new, however, is the ability to change who you want to share your posts with after they've been published. This is one feature that Google+ doesn't have yet. If you accidentally posted a drunk party picture to your family list or circle instead of your friends list or circle, you can't change that after the fact on Google+. On Facebook, you will be able to change who can view the post or photo after it's been published.
You can now tag people and pages even if you haven't friended or liked them on Facebook. If you get tagged by someone who isn't a friend, you can review and approve the tag first before the tag can show up.
If you see that a friend has posted an embarrassing photo and tagged you in it, you now have more options for taking that content down. You can ask that your friend remove the tag, remove the photo, or block the person, if you're completely unhappy with them.
These changes are positive and necessary steps for Facebook to compete with Google+. In announcing these feature updates, Facebook is singlehandedly addressing critics, creating the impression of forward momentum, and proving that it can still compete with Google+.
We'll have to see how Google reacts to these moves. Most of my social circle haven't made the transition to Google+, and honestly, Google+ feels like a much different space than Facebook. What I found infuriating about Facebook was the way it opted you into every little change with the lowest privacy setting available, and it looks like Facebook is finally moving away from exposing you to the world, and letting you choose your own comfort level.
Facebook is for family and friends to share with each other, whereas Google+ is a place to share with people you don't know. It's the new blogging medium for people who are dissatisfied with other platforms, and it's a place for people to find other people with common interests and talk about them.
Will Facebook be able to retain its users with these changes? Can Google+ attract more users with its focus on public content?