Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, has brought forth everything from Google Wallet to Android and is still coming up with bad-ass new ideas, like Google+. Mark Zuckerberg on the other hand, only has Facebook–the social media website that puts on a fancy new dress every 3-6 months. A lot of people have been asking me “What is Google+ exactly, and why should I care?”
I’m going to explain to you what Google+ has (or doesn’t have), what Facebook has (or doesn’t have) and which is the best social media website for your time.
Facebook has gained an incredible following, with over 750 million users who like to sign on to do things like farm their crops, spam their friends’ walls with cool links or give useful status updates like “had pork chops for dinner, and a nice apple sauce too”.
Everybody and their dog has a Facebook page partly because everybody else is doing it, and partly because social media is the favoured method of communication of the future. Facebook allows you to reconnect with long forgotten high school friends; it allows you to find distantly located relatives, or even just to befriend a stranger because you both like the True Blood page.
Facebook’s notoriety is what makes it so useful: You know you can stalk the cute boy from the bar last night, because there’s a 99% chance he has a Facebook account. Really, the shock only comes when somebody you know doesn’t have one.
Facebook can also be a wonderful tool for marketing: I follow Kiehl’s, for example, and, through a Facebook contest they had, I won three facial care products, simply clicking a link. I would probably have never purchased the products on my own, but after winning them, I will likely buy more once they run out.
The Pages aspect of Facebook allows businesses to connect with the people that use their products, and even convert non-believers to the power of Coca-Cola, Pampers Diapers, or whatever else they are selling. Facebook’s Pages allow me to like bands so I can find out when they’re on tour, like TV shows so I can find out what happens on next week’s episode of Deadliest Catch, or like celebrities so I can find out when they’ve checked into rehab.
Facebook also has a business advantage over Google because it willingly sells personal information without asking, whereas Google has this strange thing called “business ethics” and will always ask permission first.
Another thing that severely sucks about Facebook, aside from their total lack of ethics, is the re-modeling Zuckerberg is infamous for. Every few months, you log on to Facebook and suddenly you have no idea what website you’re on because the layout has been changed again.
This continual make-over is frustrating because it seems just as you adjust to one set-up, it changes to a new one. These make-overs also allow Zuckerberg’s team to change privacy settings, without the masses knowing or understanding how to change them to protect themselves.
One recent addition showed every single comment, “like”, posting, et cetera, I made to any friend’s wall as a link on my Facebook profile, which totally creeped me out. After hours of combing through privacy settings, I found the tiny option that allowed me to disable this–preventing others from stalking my friends through my interactions with them.
Yet Facebook also does try to do some good: they prevent minors from making information about themselves available to the public. This is a great measure, which protects minors and could even help assist in the prevention of things like cyber-bullying.
So what about the new contender?
Google+ is the most recent addition to Google’s arsenal of cool things, but how does it measure up to the biggest social media website, Facebook?
G+ can be lonely. Currently, it is open through invitation only and has yet to be publicly launched. This means your chance of finding your friends is much lower, unless you have invitations to invite them to use it.
Yet the ease of use is incomparable to the roundabout methods of Facebook. It’s significantly easier to upload photos onto G+ from your computer–-you just drag and drop the photos you’d like to upload onto the screen and, voila, there they are.
Yet if you’re like me and you use your phone to take 99.9% of your photos, you’d better hope you have an Android phone, or else there’s no way to upload to G+. If you have an iPhone or Blackberry, you need a data plan to access G+ from your web browser; there is no app yet supported on other platforms.
That said, the photos on G+ are displayed in a much more intuitive way–-they open in large format, with room on the side for comments. You can also add hashtags to photos. This looks and feels much better than the not-really-a-window “window” that Facebook opens all photos for viewing in.
G+ also has included a section called Sparks. This sidebar lets you search through interests–everything from Astrophysics to Zimbabwe–and add the interest to your G+.
Your Sparks section will then create a list of your interests, and if you click on one, it basically conducts a Google search for it. Everything from news articles, to photos, to websites come up for you to peruse. This works somewhat better than “liking” individual pages on Facebook, because it keeps your interests organized and lumped together.
Yet what Sparks finds for you needs some refinement. I added “astrophysics” to my interests and received a link to a page about NASA meetings, which isn’t exactly what I had in mind.
This is where Facebook’s Pages work a bit better–you can isolate one thing you like (Kiehl’s) and read updates only from and about them, whereas Sparks lumps together everything under the sun.
Sparks works well if you are bored and have a desire to read about something in general, or find something new about a topic you already enjoy; but if you’re looking for specific information, Facebook’s Pages work better.
The organization of Google+ is interesting. You create “Circles” for your contacts and organize them that way. You make a Circle for family, friends, work, acquaintances; and you can create one for your Thursday morning Aqua-aerobics Club if you want to.
When you post videos, photos, updates, links or anything else, you can select which Circles see it, so you can keep that photo of you chugging a beer with puke stains on your shirt away from your family’s Circle, so Aunt Betty won’t see.
This works more intuitively than the lists you must create on Facebook by clicking a thousand different links and buttons; here you simply drag your chosen person from a full list of G+ contacts, and drop them into the Circle you wish to include them in. You can even include them in multiple Circles.
Once you’ve got your Circles organized, you can interact with them through “Hang-outs”, which is basically Skype for G+, allowing you to conference video-call any of your contacts or Circle groups.
At the end of the day, most social media websites are very similar and one’s own preference is the only thing that can sway whether you will prefer G+ or Facebook.
Facebook has been championing social media connections for years, and it has the advantage of even the baby-boomer generation using and understanding it. G+ will have a hurdle in getting the older folk of the world to click on their site and get comfortable. Facebook is familiar and ubiquitous, with a plethora of options to entertain you. G+ lacks things like Zynga games, celebrity pages and all the other fluff–which might be a great thing for those who just want to simply connect with their friends and have a place to chat.