Social Network Wars, Part 2: Google+ vs Facebook
As Google+ hums along, releasing new updates and unveiling new features every few days, Facebook seems to be in panic mode. Every week, they've been revealing new features that seem suspiciously similar to Google+.
Let's review the complete list of updates Facebook has pushed out in the past month:
- This feature hasn't been rolled out yet, but pretty soon you'll be able to update Twitter from Facebook.
- Facebook users can now "subscribe" to each other, instead of, or in addition to "friending" them. This feature is similar to the Twitter and Google+ models of following people, without requiring that the people you've added to follow you back. In social media terms, it's called the "asymmetrical follow". You can then check out the public updates of the feed you've subscribed to. The followed person doesn't have to reciprocate. This feature is optional, and will probably be used by the most popular Facebook users.
- Facebook is testing a new feature that will result in fewer email notifications. Instead of getting a notification every time you get poked, emailed, or liked, you'll receive a daily summary.
- Facebook is testing "Smart Lists", which automatically groups friends for you based on certain characteristics. (If they can make this work, it will blow Google+ circles out of the water. Currently, I think Google+ circles are a huge pain to maintain.)
- Facebook's Android app has also been updated with improved privacy features. From your Android device, you can restrict who can view your posts, tag friends, places, and photos.
- Facebook created a cleaner, prettier, and more functional Photos section. The size of the photos displayed on Facebook has increased from 720 pixels to 960 pixels, and the photos will be shown at a higher resolution if the option is there.
- In August, Facebook announced an overhaul of their privacy features. They included such changes as the ability to "View Profile As...", which allows users to approve or reject tags on photos, statuses, or locations before they appear on their profiles, plus the ability to request that unwanted photos get removed, and more.
Are there really that many Facebook users who are clamoring to make their status public, and allow people to subscribe to them like Twitter or Google+? In my own experience, I haven't really been able to convince my friends and family to convert to Google+, but the people that I've been connecting with on Google+ really, really love it there.
I'm not about to give up Facebook just yet, because the majority of the people I know in real life are on there, and they're pretty entrenched. It's how I keep up with family members, from sisters to cousins, see the baby pictures of my friends, and check in with them on what's going on in their lives. It's a great place to make short rants, joke with each other, and post quick thoughts. They're not going to move to Google+ unless Facebook goes under.
Facebook is not, however, a place for long-form rumination on deep topics, or a place to host robust discussions on the issues of the day. Google+ in its current form is a place to meet people, and to have and host interesting arguments, debates, and discussions about everything under the sun. How Google+ serves its users is entirely different from how Facebook treats its users.
Google+ has many enthusiastic users who are happy to evangelize for them for free. Why is that? It's because rightly or wrongly, Google+ gives the impression of being open, friendly, and communicative. They've got dedicated community managers who have nurtured existing users, and encouraged independent communities to crop up. There's a big "Send Feedback" button for you to voice your displeasure with any aspect of the Google+ experience.
Does Facebook even have a customer service line? Who do you contact at Facebook when some part of your user experience goes awry? Who speaks for Facebook, to Facebook users? None of that information is clear or easy to find. They'd earn a lot of goodwill just by implementing basic customer service.
Previously, The Social Network Wars: Google+ vs Facebook.