Google has innovated on just about every facet of the modern internet experience so when they announced that they would tackle social networking next, a lot of people paid attention. The Google Plus Project or Google+ sets out to be a direct competitor for Facebook. Many of the features are the same and even the overall appearance shares a lot in common. After a week of hands on experience let’s take a look at how Google’s young protégé measures up to the Facebook juggernaut.
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Interface and Appearance
Anyone who is familiar with Facebook will be at home when they see the Google+ interface for the first time. The two applications offer a very similar layout and appearance with the update stream running down and the middle, groups on the left and friends on the right. Google+ benefits from the fact that it isn’t cluttered with ads and has a slightly more streamlined appearance but overall the differences are marginal.
Because of their similarities and nearly mirrored interface there is no clear winner.
Both platforms are clean, efficient and attractive.
The ability to find friends and family on a social network is arguably the most important feature and with over 750 million users around the world Facebook is hard to beat. That said Google+ has been open to the public on an invite only basis for less than a month and already has over11.5 million users. Last Tuesday when Google+ allowed users to invite others that number grew 22% is 24 hours.
Google+ also has an advantage over Facebook in one key area. Everyone with a Gmail account will eventually have direct access to Google+. The two applications are directly integrated as part of Google Applications. This means that when Google chooses to release for a wide market the number of users will skyrocket.
Still, the future is just speculation at this point and at least for now Facebook has the upper hand.
Victory goes to Facebook
Features and Functionality
Facebook has been the reigning champion in this arena for a long time and already bested its previous competitor, Myspace. What then does Google+ bring to the table?
The big draw of Google+ is the way they have chosen to allow users to separate different parts of their lives. Users can create their own custom circles and add people by dragging them in from a list of contacts. This allows for users to have all contacts on a single account but still keep private matters private and out of view of casual acquaintances. Perhaps the best part of this feature will delight anyone who has been annoyed by a contact who spams their own wall with comments. If you place a contact into the Acquaintances Circle you will only see their updates if you choose to, regardless of which circle they placed you in. For people worried about hurting people’s feelings its notable that circle placement is completely anonymous.
Personal life privacy is one area of social networking sites that has received a lot of press recently, primarily directed at recent graduates. Unflattering photos and wall posts create a major problem for people who apply for new jobs and destroys credibility among those who already have them. In this way Circles create a safe zone between personal and professional life.
Hangouts are a simple idea that has the potential to grow into something huge. At the most basic level hangouts allow Google+ users to view live video streams and participate in live video-chat simultaneously. Currently, the video streams seem to be limited to YouTube but if other sources were opened up I could see this be a great tool for business conferences as well as casual entertainment.
Cross Application Integration
Since Google already controls many of the productivity tools people use every day such as Google Maps, Gmail, Blogger, and video communication it’s no surprise that all of these have been integrated with the Google+ platform. Google has essentially produced an all in one box solution that will probably both appeal and slightly frighten many users.
Somewhat amusingly this is the one defining characteristic from Facebook that Google+ has not touched on. Games have been a part of popular Facebook culture for years. From a personal standpoint I consider the lack of games an improvement as it will reduce the amount of spam received but your personal opinions may vary.
Google has produced a full featured platform that provides a more customizable and mature social networking site.
With everything Google+ has built in and with a number of new features planned for the future it’s easy to give them victory.
Victory goes to Google Plus!
Google+ and Facebook are neck and neck in the social networking wars and there is no clear victor as of yet. Facebook has years of experience and a huge dedicated fan base but Google+ has experience in every other area of the web experience and the resources to pull everything together.
As standalone platforms neither is truly superior yet but the advantages of each will likely split the communities. Google+ is likely to appeal to a more technology sophisticated and business oriented group of users while Facebook will always appeal to a more casual audience. Which network you prefer will likely come down to personal taste.
– Richard Keene
IT Computer Support of New York
Design and Optimization Department