Why Google+ doesn’t stand a chance against Facebook.

So by now, you’ve likely heard Google+ is coming to an internet near you.

You may have taken a look at the demo, or gotten an early invitation, you might think this could usher in the next generation of social networking.

And you might be right.

I’ll admit, I’m anxious to see if Google’s actually gotten it right this time.

Google will be the first to introduce us to Web 3.0

The next generation of social networking is about to happen, no doubt about it.

Signs of Web 3.0 are clear, if you know what to look for.

Sites like Neflix and Pandora use your existing preferences to suggest new movies and music tailored to you. Facebook uses your likes and interests to target ads.

Web 3.o’s core concept is that all of your data is collected and used to deliver results tailored to you.

This is the basic idea behind Google+ Sparks

Tell Sparks what you’re into and it will send you stuff it thinks you’ll like, so when you’re free, there’s always something cool to watch, read, or share.

Sounds cool right, never be bored because you’ll always have something interesting coming your way…

Here’s why my money is on Facebook.

Facebook is a predator.

In 7 years Facebook has adopted many of the web’s most social technologies, has become largest information sharing hub, and with

the “like” button and open graph protocol worked it’s way into the backbone of the internet.

Every feature Google+ touts, Facebook has likely been developing for much longer than we realize.

They’re just waiting for the right moment to pounce.

Google+ Features and how Facebook will do it better.

 

Let’s take a look at the Google+ descriptions by Mashable , then look at some of the things Facebook has been doing.

Then you decide who’s going to do it better in the long run.

Google+ Sparks:


What Mashable says:

To spur sharing, Google has added a recommendation engine for finding interesting content. The feature, Google+ Sparks, is a collection of articles, videos, photos and other content grouped by interest. For example, the “Movies” spark will have a listing of recent and relevant content for that topic.

The system is algorithmic — it relies on information from other Google products (e.g. Google Search) as well as what is being shared via Google+ and through +1 buttons.

The problem: Just because I like independent movies doesn’t mean I’m into every single independent movie known to man. Sparks is really Google Alerts set up in a dashboard that gives more weight to data that’s gotten a +1 and been retweeted.

But+1 is still too new. Google added it to every search result to get more “+1″s on content, but that’s like sending out a mass mailer, and why would you “+1″ something you haven’t read? Using ReTweets (or even my friends ReTweets) as a signal is also not useful. Just because my friend ReTweeted a link does not mean I’m going to be interested in it.

How Facebook will do it better:

Facebook has been integrated with Bing in some way for over two years. Facebook also knows what you “like” on its platform and on various websites throughout the web.

By combining Bing’s search algorithm with an exhaustive collection of “likes” from over 750 million users, data won’t just ranked algorithmically-  it will have a real human element.

Facebook and Bing together will create the first truly relevant “social search” engine.  Your profile data will be cross-referenced with the “like” data with other people’s Facebook profiles. As strangers with similar interests to you “like” content across the web, Bing’s algorithm will use that “like” as a signal that will be interested in that content as well. The more interests you have in common, the stronger the signal.

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Google+ Circles:

What Mashable says:

Circles is well-implemented. It’s far easier than creating a Twitter List or a Facebook Friend List. The drag-and-drop functionality is a welcome addition, and the cute animations that appear when you perform actions give the product personality. That doesn’t necessarily mean users will take the time to create friend groups.

The problem: Exactly what Mashable says, even though it’s cute doesn’t mean it’s going to make people want to make yet another group. From what it looks like, much of the Google+ experience hinges on Circles+, and while they’re giving incentive with cute animations, if people don’t go through the process of organizing their contacts again, the entire Google+ experience could fall flat on it’s face.

How Facebook will do it better:

Facebook already has its existing groups and lists feature. By using some smart they could be a million times better.

All it would take for Facebook to make groups compelling is to match you and your friends  similar interests, and automatically create groups for the different categories of interests you have in common.

For example: How many people on your friends list have you lost touch with, but you know you’re into a lot of the same movies?

Imagine Facebook did the hard work of creating a group and inviting people on your friends list with similar movie interests. Would you find yourself connecting with people you haven’t talked to in a while and having stimulating conversations about something you love again?

Groups could be categorized by movies, television shows, musical interests, marital status, has children (and age of children) etc. Facebook is equipped for functionality like this with the introduction of broad category targeting on the ad platform.

Using the technology that delivers instant advertising, it would also be possible to create your update and just before you press enter Facebook  recommends which group to post to, taking the pain out of navigating different groups just to say something interesting.

Google+ Huddle:

What Mashable says:

Huddle is basically a group-texting feature for the Circles you create. It makes sense as a product, but it isn’t terribly exciting. I’m going to stick with GroupMe for now.

The problem: Mashable said it right, it isn’t horribly exciting. That group chat for a social network being mobile is kind of neat, without additional features… I’m not sure it would be enough to encourage people to jump ship from their current group chat platform.

How Facebook will do it better:

A few months back Facebook acquired group messaging platform Beluga and it’s talent, which happen to be 3 Ex-Googlers.

Beluga was described byMG Siegler of Techcrunch as ” a simple, elegant, and fast group messaging service… that works across several different platforms: iPhone, Android, mobile web, regular web, and text message…It’s almost as if Beluga is like Facebook Messages plus Groups.”

Notable features of the Beluga App

  • Pods (groups of friends you specify) you share with are totally private.
  • Everyone in a Pod can watch your updates.
  • Control alert settings capability for any specific pod.
  • Share photos and location on a map with your pods
  • Ability of inviting your contacts either from your email or mobile device
  • Add friends to a pod at any moment to instantly loop them into the conversation
  • The application is not tied to specific device, you can access pods from anywhere using any mobile device or computer with a web browser.

Imagine your Movies Group arranges a movie night.

On the night of the event, the host “checks in” through Facebook Places and members who have Rsvp’d are notified and can get directions from their current location. While on route, the host would send trivia questions from their computer, and the first to answer with their mobile device would win a prize.

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Google+ Instant Uploads

What Mashable Says:

Instant photo uploads is a cool idea, but we worry about auto-uploading all of our photos for privacy reasons. We can see some users not being happy about auto-uploads, even if the albums they’re uploaded to are private. This could potentially create a lot of “garbage.”

The problem: Aside from the “garbage” and privacy concerns, auto-uploading could eat into my phone’s data plan. If you shoot a lot of photos with your phone, you could inadvertently end up spending more on your data plan than you intended.

As an example here’s what AT&T’s data plans look like:

I hope Google+ does not keep this as an “always on” feature.

(Update: No worries here, instant upload only works when you’re connected to WiFi, and it’s actually a pretty cool feature)

How Facebook will do it better:

Simply put, they won’t do anything.

If they do, they would speed the existing process up by allowing mobile users to upload photos with fewer “clicks”

Google+ Hangouts

What Mashable says:

Hangouts is one of the more innovative concepts of Google+, and we think it’s a cool approach to getting users to accept group video chat. The camera switching feature (it changes who’s on camera based on who’s talking) is far superior to having multiple video feeds open at the same time. That said, it will require users checking their Google+ streams every day for potential chats to join. If Google+ gains traction, Hangouts will be a killer feature.

The problem is: Not really any problems here actually. This feature is easily the coolest feature of Google+. Just because it’s cool doesn’t mean everyone will love it though, there are still plenty who refuse to use a picture of their face as an avatar, but overall that will likely not hurt the adoption rate of this feature.

How Facebook will do it better:

Facebook has been integrated with Skype since October 2010, and it keeps getting better. If you’re a Skype user, you can access Facebook directly through the software.

This primarily allows you to place calls to friends cellphones from the News Feed and chat with other Skype users. You can  as “like” and comment on friends status updates, chat via instant messager, and sync friends phone numbers to your contacts list without having to go to their profile.

Buying Skype is out of the question for Facebook, as Microsoft bought it for 8.5 billion dollars in May 2011. But it’s also no secret that Facebook and Microsoft consider Google a common enemy. Is it likely Microsoft bought Skype to hold on to until Facebook goes public?

Even if that’s not the case, with the introduction of a potential game changer like Google+ Hangouts, it’s feasible Microsoft would let Facebook fully integrate Skype into it’s back end. Meaning, you’d be making voice and video calls directly from Facebook.com.

Using Skype’s Screenshare function you could do a virtual screening of a movie with your Movie group, and using Skype’s Group Chat you’d could see how your friends react and chat about the movie.

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Make no mistake about it, Facebook is a predator.

And they’re still a private company. With Facebook likely to go public no later than April 2012, that gives Google+ enough time to gain just enough traction to be lured into a false sense of security.

On the day Facebook goes public, when the closing bell sounds tears through the noise of brokers and shareholders cheering loudly, and news pundits reporting the record high day, know that the ringing in your ears marks the end of an era.

When the ringing subsides, you’ll see and hear everything with unparalleled fidelity, and you’ll wonder “what’s next?”

Do you think Facebook will continue to lead the way for social networking and have a massive impact on society?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. Rusty says

    Google+ instant upload works not only via WiFi but also via 3G. It uploaded 500MB of throw-away photos, for which I was charged $50 by my prepaid provider. Not cool :( Very disappointing :(

    • Tommy says

      This is just one of a handful of considerations I think that need to be worked out in order to really make it super competitive.

  2. Ray says

    For me the big + will be the ability to message different circles of friends independantly. I really don’t want my mum knowing that I got smashed last night from too many mogitos, just as my friends don’t need to know about my work circles or family circles. The ability to put people into more than one circle is a + too. Some friends are also colleagues. I was actually suprised that FB allows one to make groups, but forces blanket messaging to everyone. If FB started allowing independant circle messaging, they might hang onto a larger market share, but I for one cannot wait to dump FB in favour of Google+

    • Tommy says

      Groups and circles are essentially the same thing. The only real difference is the user interface. If you want smaller groups of people, make a smaller group. If you want to message even smaller groups of people… use group chat (introduced yesterday)

  3. says

    Tommy,

    Good thread. There are some big assumptions about microsoft’s benevolence. Yes, they have invested in Facebook but who is to say that they don’t have longer term interests in social networks. They are, afterall, one of the original technology predators. They also control one of the biggest installed bases of users on the web (through windows and ie). Now the likelihood of them executing well is low but if they pulled out skype and bing would that change things? Facebook could have some bigger holes to plug than you suggest.

    • Tommy says

      That’s a very interesting perspective Chad, and one I must admit I had not thought of. Microsoft is one of the original tech predators and do have a pretty good built in user base. Wouldn’t that be something if around the same time Google got it’s chromebook out to market and Google+ started to gain traction, MS decided to pull out of Facebook and include a social layer built right into the desktop? That could shake things up quite a bit I imagine.

  4. DJ 911 says

    Disagree completely. You shouldn’t write articles on features you’ve only “heard about” and not actually tried out.

    • Tommy says

      I have an account.

      Provided, I did write this before I was granted access, many of my opinions still stand. But they are just opinions, and even if Facebook does match Google+ feature for feature it’s up to the users to determine what experience is right for them. I have been enjoying myself on G+ and will admit it’s been refreshing to have fewer people on the friends list, but already that luxury is dwindling.

      Truth is, Google+ stands a chance simply because it’s not Facebook. Many will use it because of that, different features are only icing on the cake.

  5. says

    One problem with all these systems of correlating likes and dislikes to a person’s interests or providing sites of interests etc, is that they fail to take into consideration that a person may learn to like something that is not currently in their list of interests. I and others will probably ignore the first results from google or facebook and search more on the below the fold or God forbid the next page. If more people do this the data that facebook or goole provides will grow over time to be irrelevant.

    I would love that. Lets all start a movement to look at results below the fold or on the next 2 or 3 pages. Cheers

    • Tommy says

      I hear what you’re saying, but the truth is as various content spreads through our social graph, we’re exposed to different things organically (without having to search for it)

      When you “like” that piece of content, it adds to your interests and the system could then expose you to more to help expand your interests.

      The best example of this is to listen to Pandora and actively use their like and dislike when it comes to certain songs. Over time, it serves you music that other people with the same tastes and distastes as you. What happens as a result is a playlist that is always enjoyable.

      But yes, I do agree we need to search beyond what the 1st page tells us is the best.

  6. says

    Hi Tommy. This is a really good post on Google+ – thanks. It’s really got me thinking about the potential of this new service.

    I’m not sure the direct comparison with Facebook works. I think Google+ is likely to be taking a new position between FB and LinkedIn (i.e. for those people who don’t believe in a work/life divide). The Gmail dependent/loving crowd (like me) will probably lap it up. I think the killer part is Circles+ – as you allude to in the post.

    I understand your points that “..even though it’s cute doesn’t mean it’s going to make people want to make yet another group…” and “…if people don’t go through the process of organizing their contacts again, the entire Google+ experience could fall flat on it’s face.”

    However, I believe that Personal Networks only work if you put in some investment on understanding the dynamics of the different groups you communicate & relate to. Google+ is one of the first times I have seen this dealt with in a non-techy way. I think the Gmail crowd (but maybe not the FB crowd) will put the work in. It’s a bit like LinkedIn’s InMaps feature – but under your control.

    I’m just finishing reading a great book called “The Shift” by Lynda Gratton. It’s about Future Work – and the section I’m just reading is on future relationships. She quotes Cicero on the subject of investment in friendships (talking about his friend, Scipio).

    “But let me get back to Scipio, since he had a lot to say on the subject [of friendship]. He used to complain, for example, that people are prepared to take more trouble about everything else in the world than about friendship. Everyone has an idea how many goats and sheep he owns, but nobody can say how many friends he possesses. And an immense amount of care is devoted to acquiring the cattle, but none to choosing friends.”

    It’s not changed much from Ancient Times – although these days I think it is even more important to count and group our “sheep” and “goats” and Google+ (plus Circles+) might just be the tools. I don’t see FB ever being this relationship tool (to me FB is a great social place to hang out in … which has been invaded by kids and people selling stuff!).

    Thanks again for your thought provoking post. P

  7. Rob says

    “Aside from the “garbage” and privacy concerns, auto-uploading could eat into my phone’s data plan. If you shoot a lot of photos with your phone, you could inadvertently end up spending more on your data plan than you intended.”

    Just turn it off instant uploads and stop whinging

  8. says

    Tommy, thanks for taking the time to write an informative post. I agree with most of what you say, i do have a bit of the Google Buzz bad taste in my mouth when the terms Google and Social Media appear in the same topic. I’ve just launched a groups initiative for the main FB page that I manage. The concept is that, while i can generally post interesting stuff on FB that generates buzz around the brand, there are occasions that the topic is not really embraced and other times where the response goes overboard. Like last week we posted a new helmet that we got in. It received 700 likes 100 comments and we sold out in a matter of minutes. What the FB group will do is become a sounding board to our true brand ambassadors that will enable us to bounce ideas off prior to posting to the masses. Hopefully this will help us hit “home runs” like this more often.

    • Tommy says

      I love that, and fully support that! I think too many do not fully utilize the capabilities of the different aspects of Facebook, but for those who do you can see some massive results.

      Though I will say this, I’ve just started playing with Google+ and I’m liking it a lot

  9. says

    Great comparison!

    I think the biggest thing Facebook has going for it is critical mass. Like Ross above, migrating everyone over to GOOG+ sounds like an impossibility to me. So, if Google hopes GOOG+ will “beat” Facebook by replacing it, I think it’s gonna be a tough row to hoe. However, I imagine (for myself) using GOOG+ in a far more targeted way.

    I think FB’s biggest weakness is that it doesn’t resemble your meatspace existence in a meaningful way. Without taking special measures, my status goes to my colleagues, college friends, family, etc.. You can create a private group, but it’s like a different room you need to enter to have that conversation. GOOG+ Circles seem like a much more elegant way to handle the issue. They’re like a content routing system – enter your message, select the populations you want to see it, and away you go.

    I also think that Google understands the relationship between pieces of content better than Facebook. Facebook understands the relationship between people better than Google. I think the future is merging the social graph with the mesh of content – whomever can accomplish that first will win.

    It’s a bit difficult for me to do a fair assessment of GOOG+ with only, like, 5 Friends in 8 Circles. I’ll reserve final judgement for when the GOOG+ population grows.

  10. Jim says

    Facebook obviously has a huge head start.

    Google has some other advantages that you don’t touch on here. Google has such a wide reach with their product base, almost everybody relies on their services in one way or another. Maps, Photos, Documents, EMAIL, etc. You name it. If either facebook or google had to be shut down for good, which one do you want saved? For me it’s easy . . . google. I rely on them for everything. If facebook shuts down . . . I still know who my friends are and have most of them in my gmail contacts anyway.

    I think you’re only seeing a scratch onthe surface for the hangouts feature. I’ll be shocked if in the future the hangouts doesn’t include maps / search / tools to plan group activities / calendar / event setup that is viewable to everybody in the video chat. It would make planning group events, meetings, etc. so easy if everybody in the chat can see / access those things in real-time. Currently, the youtube feature gives a glimpse of this concept, where you can all share and see a video together.

    I think this google product has some long term potential. I don’t think it’s going to knock off facebook, but it will be a competitor that they’ll take very very seriously.

    • Tommy says

      Jim

      Awesome points! Email I think would be the one thing I think would be scary to Google. But the truth is, Facebook is deeply integrated with docs.com, has access to Bing’s Maps, and has the number one Photo sharing service on the web and it’s only getting better.

      Right now, Facebook has many of the same services Google has at arms reach through their partnership with Bing. What I imagine they’re going to do is pull all of those assets together not just to make Facebook a better service, but also to bring more use to Bing as well… (which let’s not forget has deep integration with understated computational engine Wolfram Alpha)

      Right now, both Facebook and Bing are relatively separate, but with Facebook having the established platform for social networking, I imagine their plan is to pull all of those services together to make a “New Facebook” that could certainly challenge Google not just on the social side, but as an entire entity

  11. ross says

    Tommy,

    Nice article.

    To throw my .02 in the ring. I like the idea of starting over on organizing my friends on google+. No ads (yet), no games, and much more focused conversations with my friends. I realize that skype, groupme and other have similar tech, but as of yet it is not all easily accessed in the place i already am.

    Just my thoughts.

    Ross

    • Tommy says

      Ross,

      Thanks for your comment! You raise some very valid points here. If Google is smart, they’ll keep the platform ad free and that will be very appealing to users. My guess is they will ad a social layer to games found in the app store, but they will learn from Facebook’s mistake of letting applications update to a users wall.

      Jim makes some very valid points too, that when they start integrating many of their existing assets, but it’s nothing deep integration with Bing with many similar offerings couldn’t also take care of.

      One thing is clear, no matter what we the users are going to win!

  12. says

    Definitely great insight as always Tommy. To ease your concerns a bit, Google does give you the option to turn off the auto-upload and make it so that you only upload when connected to wifi. Great insight and I am interested to see how it all turns out. My money is on Plus… for now. I can see Facebook release some of the feature PLus has to counteract the outflow. Great things are ahead.

    • Tommy says

      Excellent, that does ease my mind, and as such I’ll update that section. Would you by chance have an invite?

      • says

        They have closed off the invites for now but if you DM me a gmail account I will add you when they open it back up. @matthod

        I say Gmail because it sounds like Peter Shankman is having trouble getting it with his Google Apps account right now.

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