Since the dawn of time (or broadband, whichever sounds dramatic to you), social networking has already been there. Whether it be Friendster, MySpace, Linkdln, Twitter, Facebook or Google+, social networking has always been present. Facebook and Twitter are the most widely used social networking websites these days. When Friendster (hey remember that?) turned into gaming site, it just reaffirmed the hold of Facebook in our generation. MySpace (what ever happened to it?) was now more for musicians. And even Facebook now caters not only to musicians, but to actors, writers, bloggers, and politicians with the introduction of Pages.
The world seems to always cling to what is new. The question seems to always ask, what’s the latest?
Google became a competitor in the field of social networking with it’s recent release of The Google+ Project. It is also slowly starting to gain momentum. They challenge the very fabric that makes Facebook, well, Facebook. But will Google+ triumph over Facebook or will it be like the Google Wave (where is it now?) fiasco?
Let us explore both the pros and cons of these two top competing social networking sites. I’m not gonna go on and on about technical terms (because I really don’t know the technical terms) but from one user to another, I’m gonna tell you the experience of using both.
Let me start with something familiar, Facebook. Facebook has grown since it’s release. It has become the social hub for anyone whose anyone: actors, musicians, writers, authors, directors, movie stars. You mention it, probably that person has a Facebook account.
Anyone can post whole albums, write notes (similar to a blog post), post on “walls” of other people (public messaging), join groups, group message, and poke (mostly a senseless feature but great for annoying someone).
What really made Facebook special is it’s famous Like button. Anne likes this. John likes that. Jane likes those. Mark likes these. Likes, it’s a sign of approval, it’s like giving someone a pat on the back. It’s the first social networking site that catered to likes.
Likes can also be applied to pages. Pages are accounts that famous people own. These people may be movie stars, musicians, bands, authors, comedians, and even politicians.
It also introduced chat. You can “talk” to someone simultaneously, while roaming around Facebook. It’s like messaging made easier. And for those offline, you can send them an e-mail within Facebook, and when they log on the next time, they’d be able to read that message.
Facebook has also removed the unnecessary and annoying feature of selecting a profile theme. Unlike Friendster, you can’t change the blue and white profile theme it has. If you ask me, that’s a good thing because when I was in Friendster (way before I deleted my account there) I had always gotten notifications when someone would make slight changes to their profile background. And that is really annoying.
Speaking of Notifications, Facebook has also utilized the use of it. And unlike Friendster, you can actually choose if you’d want to receive those notifications via e-mail or not. Notifications on Facebook are also real time so whenever someone would comment on your post, like your picture, or add you as a friend, you’d get it at once.
Facebook also has integration with other sites like Twitter, Foursquare and WordPress. This makes it useful for those of you who frequently post via Twitter but rarely visits Facebook because anything you post on Twitter would automatically be posted in Facebook, although you can opt to post selected tweets. It also goes the same with Foursquare, you can announce your mayorships via Foursquare but it would also be posted in Facebook. When you blog in WordPress, poof, automatically in Facebook.
One of the problems in Facebook, though, is the growing spam users. The spammers could even use your friend’s profiles to post sites which may contain virus, pornography, or spams. And if you click on the site, you can expect that your profile would also be used to post the same sites. And then, there’s the spam tagger. These spammers would tag you with pictures that are senseless, irrelevant, and even offensive. If you untag yourself, they’d just simply tag you in another one. This can be very disruptive and annoying because you get a notification every time someone tags you. This is a growing security hole and if Facebook wants to continue with their growing influence they’d better find a solution…and fast!
The Google+ Project
Google, seeing the effect of Facebook on the world, decided to compete with it (although, they have denied it over and over again firmly). And so, Google+ came to be. The interface is very much like Facebook with a few added and subtracted features.
Instead of Friends you get Contacts and you don’t add them, you put them in Circles. You can segregate your contacts and you can put them in your own Circles, it’s just a matter of drag and drop. (more on the Google+ website)
If Facebook has the News Feed where you can see your friends’ posts, Google+ has the Stream. The Stream has basically the same functions and features of the News Feed.
Google+ also has also introduced Sparks. Sparks is a very unique feature where in you can search for people who have the same hobbies as you. You can also publicly post your Sparks (or your hobbies, pass times, wants, likes) and you’d automatically become searchable for that specific “spark”.
They have also developed a webcam chat feature called Hangouts which allows you to notify your friends when you’re webcam is open and that they can talk to you. It is literally like hanging out with people only less personal and more digital. It’s still too early to say, but it might even compete with Skype in this perspective.
Then finally, there’s the +1, this is like the Like Button but with added features. You can +1 not only your friend’s posts but also other websites. You can check out the video here. It’s very amusing though, because they really tried very hard to not say the word “like”.
There is one downside to G+ though, it does not allow other social networking websites to sync with it. That’s a problem for those who do not have the time to open their G+ account all the time. What if they can only post in Twitter because they are always in the go? The blogs you write in WordPress, they won’t get published in G+. Your mayorships in Foursquare, forget about it! They’d lose a big demographic of users there.
Then there’s the biggest problem with Google+, not everyone has a Gmail account. I am, personally, a hardcore Gmail user but a lot of my friends are Yahoo and MSN users. For them to get a Google+ account, they have to make a Gmail. That introduces the hassle of moving all your contacts from 1 email address to another. And then you need to notify all the people you know. No one would want to go through the hassle of changing email accounts. Google+ should allow other email providers to sign up if they really want to compete with Facebook. They wouldn’t want this to be like the Wave fiasco, would they? They need to take these in consideration. But G+ is still in it’s early stages, so a lot of improvements can still be made to cater to the growing demands of the public. And there’s this one other problem, G+ is an invite only site. Meaning, if you didn’t have an invite, you can’t sign up. But still G+ is only in it’s early release stages, maybe when they roll the full version we would see a lot of improvements…one could only hope.
If you want invites for Google+, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you one. Just put the subject as “Google+ Invite”. And you can add me on both sites.
Google+: Jehu Dagohoy
Facebook: Jehu Paule Dagohoy