This week has been huge for social media networks Facebook, and Google+. With the battle lines now being clearly drawn, Facebook and Google are set to be at war for the best Social Network.
Love them or hate them, but social networks are becomming more and more a part of everyday life. From seeing what your old high school buddies are doing, tagging your close friends with you at the local bar, to tweeting questions to celebrities, TV Shows and Politicians.
This week has been an enormous week for the social media phenomenon. Google+, the answer to Facebook from Google (and the successor to Google’s Buzz) was released to the public. A timely release, with Facebook announcing major changes to its social network, on top of the new changes already rolled out this week. So let’s start it off by going through the three main social media networks today…
This is Google’s answer to Facebook. Google+ has been in a private/semi-public beta for a bit now. I myself got access to the beta program about a month ago, and so far I am liking it, but it does need some improvement.
Google+’s major features are the negative sides of Facebook. Facebook has been plagued by privacy issues, and Google+ fixes that by allowing you to categorize your friends into “circles”. These circles of friends allow you to control which of your friends see what. So for example, you can post those pictures of your cute little cat getting drunk off your beer on the weekend, and not share it with all your office mates that’ll laugh at you on Monday. Brilliant!
Where Google+ falls down in my opinion is also a major advantage over Facebook, and that is it’s too simple. Google’s new layout and look (the red and black theme) which is being rolled out across all Google services is installed with Google+. Straight away, when you’re looking at Google+, you don’t see any clutter. You’re not bombarded with advertising, friend lists, apps, notifications. It’s clean and simple. The chat list is simple, and consistent with Gmail. But I don’t know, it feels empty and not as powerful. If you were converting from Facebook to Google+, I don’t think you’d quite understand exactly what you can do on Google+. Which I think for the mainstream, will be a disadvantage to Google.
Apart from that, the layout being simple is a lot better than the cluttered Facebook screen. You can also use formatting in your posts, such as bold and italics. There’s also the geotagging capabilities like Facebook has.
What’s really promising in Google+ is the hangouts feature. Which allows you to have video conversations with your circles. This feature I really love about Google+. However Google+ is lacking a Band/Celebrity feature. Although it’s good that you can just put people into your “following” circle.
The main disadvanatge right now to Google+ is the friend searching capabilities. It’s hard to find the people you’re friends with or know on Google+ if you don’t know their e-mail address, or they have a public profile picture that you can identify them by. Until that’s fixed, Google+ will be very frustrating to people moving over from Facebook.
We should all know what Facebook is by now. This week has seen some major changes to the already cluttered Facebook system. These features include
- You can now segregate your contact list into friend “lists”. These lists, which are defined by Facebook (you can also make your own) will affect what posts you see, and from whom. For example. placing someone into a close friends list will mean you see more of their posts in your news feed. You’ll also get notifications when they post a new status etc.
- Above the chat on the right-hand-side of Facebook, is a “Live Feed” of all your friends activities on Facebook. This feed is like those little news tickers you see on breakfast TV shows. If you like something, post something, no matter on who’s wall etc, it’ll show up in your friends news ticker.
- There’s new privacy settings available for each post you make, allowing you to choose who sees what post.
- Another feature to combat Google+, you can now subscribe to peoples updates instead of having to be their friend on Facebook. This is pretty much half-way to having a Fan Page, and a Profile.
Most of the changes above are just to match Google+’s core features. There’s also a lot of UI changes to come with them. I’m going to make the call here, and I’ll most likely eat my words later, but I think the end of Facebook is upon us. Not because Google+ is the better network or Twitter is better. But because Facebook has become so clogged down. The constant changes in the UI (it took me a couple of minutes to work out how to update my status tonight) and their new chat system is ridiculous.
Having so many users, its hard to make changes to the site without upsetting people. But the new chat system that shows your entire friend list, instead of just the people that are online is confusing and illogical. The new privacy settings and subscriptions are also confusing, and I don’t think they’re well suited to Facebook. The original “like” and “friend” concept worked great for Facebook, and I think the new “subscribe” feature is going to make the whole experience more confusing, and fragmented.
Privacy has been a major issue for Facebook. And the new feature announced this week Facebook Timeline will only add to that. Currently in beta, and expected to release sometime in the next few weeks, this new offering is exactly what it sounds like. A timeline of your life on Facebook.
Your friends will be able to see how you’ve interacted with Facebook over the years. Go back in time and see your status updates at a certain time, what was on your mind, where you were etc. This I think is going to potentially open up a majpr can of worms where privacy is concerned. And Facebook are aware of this. Right now, they give you one week to “clean up your timeline” before it is made public (or at least to your friends – we hope). After that week, you better hope your friends didn’t tag you at the pub in 2008 on your wedding anniversary, instead of being at home with the wife.
Now obviously Facebook need to be innovative. And I think web apps should serve a purpose to help people. But apart from stalkers and spies, who is this timeline feature going to help? Soon if your my Facebook friend, I’ll be able to see who you were in a relationship with years ago, when you broke up with them, how bad the breakup was, and who you’ve worked for, when you resigned etc etc. And Facebook hand that info over to me in a easy to read format.
With all the confusing UI changes, and new features that some people might not take too kindly too, I think Facebook could be on the downhill here. Trying to tell us what we’d like, and disregarding our privacy.
Twitter is the third social network that I think is a bit confusing to some people. I’ve only been really using it for about three weeks now, and it’s a learning curve. But I think the main advantage of Twitter is the fact that they’re up front about what they do, and they haven’t really changed much. The layout is simple, the one thing you can do is tweeting, and they make it no secret that your tweets are public. I don’t see Twitter failing in this social media war, but I think Google+ or Facebook are going to take a major hit.
There’s one thing we know for sure, our lives on the web are going to change. We’re going to see the biggest changes to social media since MySpace got popular. Will Google+ finally be a successfull social network for Google? Let’s hope so.