This is War: Google+ vs Facebook

Written by: Drew Lyon   Austin, Texas

Posted on: July 15, 2011


As it stands, Google, the most dominant force in search, possibly all of the internet, has issued a call-to-arms to social media creator, Mark Zuckerberg and his brain-child, Facebook. In the greatest passive-aggressive battle since the space race, Google has launched its own social media platform, Google+. Google+ is presently an invite-only service, still in beta, that could potentially counter the popularity of Facebook and its now confirmed 750 million users. But, who’s counting?

Google: “We’re not competing with Facebook”

Okay, sure. Whether or not Google sees their platform as a “Facebook competitor,” “alternative,” or neither, is largely inconsequential. Our attention spans are limited and Facebook has done a commendable, perhaps damnable, job of keeping us glued to our virtual social homes through innovations in the news feed, “like” button, messaging, app integration and inexplicably addictive games that revolve around growing beets. Who knew society had such pent up demand for virtual farmlife?

Irregardless, it has become necessary that Google competes for our valuable attention and hopefully in the process, improves their core product: search. Google+ and +1 both have tremendous potential to improve the overall Google experience. Google is touting Google+ as, “a way to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software. We want to make Google better by including you, your relationships, and your interests.”

Noble as that may sound, with proper execution, integration into search and widespread adoption, Google+ could do just that. But there’s a problem: all my friends are already on Facebook, all the photos of my ex-lovers and my precious beet farm are also there! What do you Google, have to offer? How many sheep can I buy on Google+ with my non-transferable Facebook credits?

What puts the ‘+’ in Google+?

The biggest question surrounding Google+ seems to be “Why do we need anything other than Facebook?” While Google+ lets participants develop a personal profile, allows photo and video uploads, and displays a stream of friends’ updates, all similar to their Facebook counterparts, there are a few key differences that have social media devotees fighting for those elusive invites.

Choose Who Stays in the Loop

One distinguishing feature is what Google calls, “Circles.” Contacts can be grouped into circles of “friends,” “family members,” “co-workers,” “mortal enemies,” or Google’s own clever category, “epic bros.” Then, when you choose to share information on Google+, you decide what Circle(s) are privy to the post. This way, your boss doesn’t see you “privately” venting your frustration about redundant TPS reports or posting pictures of a defiled office printer—and so forth.

This is what Circles look like:

Let’s hang out — No, not in real life of course

Probably the coolest new feature of Google+ is, “Hangouts.” Hangouts give users the ability to video chat, text chat and watch YouTube videos with up to ten friends at once. They’re aiming to simulate the spontaneity and casualness of hanging out in real life. To paraphrase, you see some friends gathered together talking and you’re more likely to join in. Google calls the existing instant message paradigm, their own G-chat service not withstanding,“annoying,” “awkward,” and often “unresponsive.” Basically Google has re-introduced chat rooms. Now with video!

This is what a Hangout looks like:

(p.s. that’s not me)

Does Facebook have any reason to worry?

In the wake of Google’s big announcement, Facebook immediately announced that they were planning their very own “awesome” announcement. So apparently somebody thinks there’s a competition. A week after the launch of Google+, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (ironically, the most followed person on Google+) showcased—surprise, surprise—video calling integration into Facebook. For the time being, Facebook video-chat is only available for one-on-one calls, and therefore not exactly an alternative to “Hangouts”—instead, it offers a convenient way to initiate video-calls on the platform you already spend a significant amount of time communicating on. Small steps.

Will Google+ achieve liftoff?

This isn’t the first time Google’s tried its hand at social media. I’ll fated services like Google Buzz and Google Wave were previous half-baked attempts to board the social media bandwagon. And while these services quickly fizzled and collected dust, somehow Google+ feels different—more fully formed. The community is active, growing and the information shared is diverse. For now at least, it seems the Google+ social shuttle is readying for liftoff.

Early results are coming in

Even though Google+ is still limited to invite-only, G-CEO Larry Page announced that the service has amassed upwards of 10 million users—making it the fastest growing service of its kind. This growth is bolstered by the fact that hundreds of millions of people already have Google accounts and use services like Gmail and YouTube on a daily basis.

Nevertheless, the growth is highly encouraging and Google+ seems to have the full support of the company going forward. Increased competition is always good for the user and the early popularity of Google+ will only force Facebook to innovate and continue offering users more enticing reasons to stay put. All and all, it’s an exciting time for social media users and businesses looking for new ways to reach customers.


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