Editorial

All the ways Google+ isn't Facebook

While it’s rather obvious that Google is breaking into the social world to combat Facebook’s stranglehold on that domain, those using Google+ are starting to realize that while it may have a similar look and feel to some other popular social networks, it is ultimately a different beast altogether. It’s almost like Google was well aware that it wasn't going to beat Facebook at its own game, so they went a different route and made a network that is, if nothing else, very much Google.

It’s about Content – Facebook is a platform all to itself. While it is constantly expanding and growing, it is still Facebook, and all the third party applications and connections are still ultimately governed and controlled by it. This works very well for them because Facebook’s success depends on the Facebook platform being successful. If that sounds redundant, look at Google. Google+ does not need to succeed. Google+, like all other Google products, is purely a conduit by which Internet users are compelled to use Google Search. The most obvious example of this is Android. Google doesn’t make a cent in distributing the OS to any manufacturer that wants to use it. It is open source and many of the changes that companies like HTC and Motorola make to the OS are actually reviled by users. Google doesn’t mind that they are probably losing money on Android, because they now have a disproportionately large market share in the mobile search market. Google+ is the same thing in the end. It is not about the platform, but about the content that is contained within it. It is about the activities that people use Google+ to do, hopefully making them even more dependent on Google services like Picasa and Chat to do the things they usually do online. Video chatting in Hangout will fuel their newly minted desire to take over Skype (now MicroSkype), Circles will catapult Google Contacts into use in more Google products, and instant upload shoehorns mobile users into the world of Picasa. Whereas Facebook is a means unto itself, Google+ is a means to a more Google-themed online experience, and doesn’t hinge on the success of the platform itself.

Tearing down the wall – Circles may simply seem like Facebook groups at first, but a very clear and obvious difference becomes apparent pretty quickly. When I add a user into a Circle, that user isn’t asked to add me to his own circle. That person gets notified that I’ve added him, but he can ignore that notification and get on with his life. I still have him in my Circles, I can follow everything he shares publicly, and he doesn’t have to follow my content to make that connection. This is probably the biggest difference between the Facebook model of the Social Graph and the Google+ version. It’s much more reminiscent of Twitter, a follower model. If Facebook is the friend model of social networking, and Twitter is the follower model, Google+ falls squarely in the middle. It gives you the flexibility to create groups and selectively share content, but it also lets you build out a circle of celebrities and follow every juicy bit of celebrity gossip that comes out of their gold-encrusted keyboards. It’s a model that I’m falling for pretty quickly, and it quite deftly bridges both social models in a subtle and streamlined way.

Privacy – While Facebook has gotten incrementally better at this game, it still opts for an opt-in kind of system for a majority of privacy settings. Google+ is trying to not be that. When you turn on instant upload of your phone pictures (which is off by default), you still have to selectively decide who is getting access to those pictures. When you write a status, you have to choose which groups are going to see it. It adds another step to the sharing process if you have to change these settings on the fly, but Google hopes that the choice will pay off when users realize that they have more control over the flow of their content through the web this way. This ethos applies to most areas of Google+, including Hangouts. You can open up a hangout to the whole world, but you have to actively make that decision; it’s never on by default. Also, while it isn’t “privacy” per se, everything in Google+ is SSL encrypted, as shown by the https:// protocol appearing in your address bar while browsing.  That one is the default setting.

Photo Sharing – Google+ has managed to incorporate the best of both worlds in photo sharing. As easy social photos become the de facto social medium (see: incredible success of Instagr.am and sites like yFrog), the integration of Picasa is a huge win on Google’s part. Facebook is the king of social photos mainly because of sheer critical mass. People will share on Facebook because it’s easy, and more people will see it on there. Google+ adds the enthusiast options of seeing EXIF data for pictures as well as some basic touch-up and editing features. Picasa accepts large files for upload and doesn’t shrink them, so photos viewed in Google+ can be high resolution and don’t suffer from Facebook’s destruction by compression. Photos in general are done very well in Google+, and anyone looking for an alternative to Facebook with more photographer-friendly sharing options will feel at home at Google+ (no RAW uploads, though).

There are many ways to see Google+ as a Facebook clone. It’s laid out similarly, the basic ideas of sharing content socially are all there, and it’s coming from an overt competitor. However there are differences where it counts. Google+ is borrowing from a number of different ideas and technologies in the world of social networking, and forming what it believes is an ideal hybrid of them all. It is far and away the best social product Google has released to date. Google is taking this very seriously, going so far as to make changes across all major Google hubs to match the new Google+ look. Tectonic shifts are happening at Google HQ and the search company is slowly but surely transitioning to a more social model, something that’s been a long time coming but may actually come to fruition now. 

Image Courtesy of SimplyZesty.com

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42 Comments

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Until a significant number of my friends and family start using Google+, I'll be stuck Facebook. And I'm not going to post updates to two different services. (Same reason I use Facebook instead of Twitter, because that's where my family and friends are.)

And yes, new stuff can be exciting, but I'm not going to fawn over Google+ and beg someone for an invite when nobody I know will be there to "socially interact" with.

"Google doesn't make a cent in distributing the OS to any manufacturer that wants to use it. It is open source and many of the changes that companies like HTC and Motorola make to the OS are actually reviled by users. Google doesn't mind that they are probably losing money on Android, because they now have a disproportionately large market share in the mobile search market"

Actually Eric Schmidt recently said Google already makes a profit on Android.

http://www.engadget.com/2010/1...-profitable-could-eventual/

So in a nutshell...

Google+ is a bit like Windows Live which also does not try to be facebook.

However, being Google, they get to track everything and follow trends and allow their employees and themselves to have unfettered access to your information and privacy and content and photos, etc...

Oh, and...

I can follow everything he shares publicly, and he doesn't have to follow my content to make that connection

They make it a great social networking service for stalkers, especially when a lot of people mess up their security and don't understand 'private' vs 'public' - and based on facebook users, this is about 85% of the population.

Awesome, are there any more ways we can hand information over to Google? Maybe GoogleCam, and just install it in our houses so they can see what products we use directly and sell this information too. Of course they won't share the video *wink*, and they won't let employees 'normally' access the video streams *wink* *wink*.

How many months has it been since Google has publically admitted to firing an employee for searching through personal GDocs, GVoice, Gmail?
(Sadly only when the people that knowing were harmed go public, have employees been fired.)

It is this simple...
Information is power,
The ability to do generic queries on information that Google admits to keeping is absolute power.
It lets them predict trends, invest in the trends, buy stocks based on these trends, and also influcence people and governments. This is unfettered absolute power, and sheep keep using their 'free' crap and giving it to them.

When comparing online companies, there is a reason to trust Microsoft, as they don't even give themselves access to data stored on their servers, let alone have the ability to data mine it, or query it, nor can any employee ever access it.

Google has the 'opposite' policies, and says it is necessary to keep the data unencrypted because of the way CIS works, which as Microsoft proves, is a lie.

Good luck to anyone handing more information over to Google.

Google doesn't sell Android but I'm sure with it tracking users it allows for better ad targeting which is google's main source of income.

A well-written article, and I completely agree. I really hope most Twitter users start using Google+ instead. They just need a way to verify accounts of companies or public figures now

FMH said,
When is Google+ expected to come out of beta?

It will be long before it's out of beta but for Google Beta doesn't mean unstable, it's more like not yet complete.

For Gmail that's 5years of beta.

NesTle said,

It will be long before it's out of beta but for Google Beta doesn't mean unstable, it's more like not yet complete.

For Gmail that's 5years of beta.


To be fair, there's an extremely good reason why gmail was in beta for so long.

I would've +1 this, but those button's are not 'yet' included, contrary to Facebook's Like and Twitter's Tweet.

Tiuri said,
I would've +1 this, but those button's are not 'yet' included, contrary to Facebook's Like and Twitter's Tweet.

You shouldn't have this complaint soon

When Facebook destroyed myspace it was because facebook was superior... much superior.

Google plus is not superior to facebook, it is on par and offers no major improvement over fb, no one except the most die hard google fanatics will stay on that network, it is doomed to join wave, buzz and a whole lot of other failed google projects.

Beastage said,
When Facebook destroyed myspace it was because facebook was superior... much superior.

Google plus is not superior to facebook, it is on par and offers no major improvement over fb, no one except the most die hard google fanatics will stay on that network, it is doomed to join wave, buzz and a whole lot of other failed google projects.


So the only way to enter the market is to beat Facebook like Facebook beat MySpace? That seems like a trivial assessment. As the editorial nicely lays out, Google isn't in this to flat beat Facebook at it's own game; they are looking to make a dent in the market. Any success for Google makes this a win.

Beastage said,
When Facebook destroyed myspace it was because facebook was superior... much superior.

Google plus is not superior to facebook, it is on par and offers no major improvement over fb, no one except the most die hard google fanatics will stay on that network, it is doomed to join wave, buzz and a whole lot of other failed google projects.

for people thta share everything with everyone on facebook, it is no problem. but for those of us who are a tad more selective, or even, just want to share stuff with our friends rather than friends of friends, everyone in a network, or such. google+ is a lot better.

if I wanted the versality of google+ in terms of privacy, i'd have to find it all buried in facebook privacy settings.

Xenosion said,

So the only way to enter the market is to beat Facebook like Facebook beat MySpace? That seems like a trivial assessment. As the editorial nicely lays out, Google isn't in this to flat beat Facebook at it's own game; they are looking to make a dent in the market. Any success for Google makes this a win.

I hope facebook goes down like Myspace. Don't know why but i'm starting to hate facebook.

Tzvi, I won't lie. I read the title and thought this would be an article slashing Google+. I was like, WTFZORS GOOGLE+ IS AWESOME... WHAT IS TZVI DOING MEOW.

Then I read the article.

I agree. I love the service so far, it seems really polished for a Beta. Also, I hope more people actually use it.

Brian said,
I hope more people actually use it.

Bingo! Good or bad, Google+ 's success all depends on this. People are comfortable with Facebook; it's going to take a lot for them to move.

Hollow.Droid said,
Nice write up, I'll hopefully get to try some of those features when the invite system opens up again! Any word on that btw?

For all thoes who want invite: Find someone with Google+ account, and tell them to send/share you a message to your email ID. And Voila, you are in..

codename.venice said,

For all thoes who want invite: Find someone with Google+ account, and tell them to send/share you a message to your email ID. And Voila, you are in..

I have an invite but as Neowin reported they shut down the invite system due to over demand

Hollow.Droid said,

I have an invite but as Neowin reported they shut down the invite system due to over demand


Yes. But there's a way to join G+. Just follow what codename.venice said.

TechDudeGeorge said,
Unless I missed it, you forgot to add that it excludes 13-18 year olds unlike Facebook. Plus won't let you edit age.

Rumor is that's only in beta. It might change when the full product is released. Knowing Google though, that could be years

I wonder how long it'll be until Microsoft releases their competitor to Google+ and Facebook. They seem to have some kind of need to compete with Google in every single industry they're in.

MS Lose32 said,
I wonder how long it'll be until Microsoft releases their competitor to Google+ and Facebook. They seem to have some kind of need to compete with Google in every single industry they're in.

How can they, all the good guys from Microsoft work at Facebook now.

MS Lose32 said,
I wonder how long it'll be until Microsoft releases their competitor to Google+ and Facebook. They seem to have some kind of need to compete with Google in every single industry they're in.

They had one a while back and it failed. Microsoft just isn't a company to create something like MySpace [was], Facebook , or Twitter.

Xenosion said,

They had one a while back and it failed. Microsoft just isn't a company to create something like MySpace [was], Facebook , or Twitter.
Really? What was it called?

MS Lose32 said,
I wonder how long it'll be until Microsoft releases their competitor to Google+ and Facebook. They seem to have some kind of need to compete with Google in every single industry they're in.

MS and Facebook are already in deep romance, there is no reason for MS to trouble with a social network.

Xenosion said,

I really don't remember but I had joined just to check it out.

It's called Windows Live (http://www.live.com), and millions of very happy Hotmail, SkyDrive, Messenger, and Windows Phone users are using it every day.

MS Lose32 said,
I wonder how long it'll be until Microsoft releases their competitor to Google+ and Facebook. They seem to have some kind of need to compete with Google in every single industry they're in.

I don't think MS will make another social network for the time being. Social networks come and go. Look at what Happened to Newscorp and MySpace. Loosing over half a billion dollars and reputation is nothing to sneeze at even if you are MS. Its far easier to partner with them and have a strategic alliance than to go with the flavor of the year site. Look at WP7. Yest FB is integrated with the People Hub, but soon Twitter and LinkedIn will also be part of it. If a new popular system comes along it will be just as easy to integrate it as well. Its a really good idea and should allow for the flexibility and quick pace of innovation necessary to help MS get a foothold in the mobile space without becoming locked into a single strategic partnership.

MS Lose32 said,
I wonder how long it'll be until Microsoft releases their competitor to Google+ and Facebook. They seem to have some kind of need to compete with Google in every single industry they're in.

You mean like MSN Groups that they closed down? Or Hotmail that Gmail modeled itself after (with the added data mining of user information to sell)?

Microsoft already has Windows Live, which is what Google is trying to mimic with Google+
Microsoft is an investor in Facebook and close partner, this is why Windows Live and all the Windows tools directly integrate with Facebook already.

You and Google are the only ones that seem to think Microsoft is trying to 'emulate' Google.

I'm wondering why Facebook hasn't start aggressive eat in Google's slide of the advert revenue pie. The majority of google's revenue is still in their ads biz. If facebook attack that, google would be in real big trouble since they offer most of their services for frii.