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The ever-escalating battle between Facebook and Google Plus for social networking supremacy has reached a new level of competition in recent days. Facebook has revealed their next slew of changes that includes an overhaul of user profiles with the new Timeline profile, their new Open Graph API, and the ticker. Google Plus has finally made their social network available to everyone, gotten hangouts onto mobile phones, and allowed big audiences to view hangouts (beyond the maximum of ten people actually hanging out).
For the first time ever Facebook has serious competition (well, not too serious) and it has forced them to really think about the service they offer. On the other hand, Google jumped into the game years after Facebook established dominance and it has forced them to act quickly and to be innovative in their approach to social networking. However, I believe Facebook is going to either: 1) smother Google+ because they are simply THAT big, 2) force Google+ to reconsider their target market and become more of a niche social network, or 3) simply just stop worrying about Google+ and keep doing their own thing.
While the social networks continue to change, adapt, update, and fight for users’ time and money it will only stand to benefit us users. The recent changes made to both Facebook and Google+ make both networks easier and more fun to use, but I think Facebook really “gets” it better than Google+ and their recent changes show that.
How will these changes benefit you (the user) in the long run? Social networking is becoming something more than just a way to keep in touch with friends and stalk people you met the night before at a party. Facebook, and at some point Google+, is becoming a social aggregator that takes everything you do and puts it all into one place. It is the ultimate sharing tool. The new Open Graph technology is incredible. From personal experience (and some insane numbers) the new API is going to brush off everyone’s complaints about privacy and turn the internet into a cohesive community that shares everything. (And let’s be honest here, if you complain about your information being shared, DON’T put it on the internet in the first place, because it isn’t just Facebook and Google tracking you.)
Connecting with your friends now brings you more than status updates, relationship status changes, and photos. You now can see what your friends are listening to/watching/doing and choose to listen to/watch/participate in real time with the click of your mouse. It’s amazing to share so much with friends. There will always be people terrified of sharing so much, but in the end it develops relationships with people which is what social networking is really all about.
When Google+ first released my initial thought was that they tried to combine the best of everything into one network. They had Facebook’s layout (almost identical), Twitter’s real-time sharing capabilities, and Google is connecting all of their services as well. Seems like it would be a perfect storm to attract users. Instead Google+ is still floundering (or close to it), with not many active users. However, Facebook is learning from Google’s mistakes (that they made trying to learn from Facebook…it’s a vicious cycle), and creating one hell of a social network. They’ve add “Subscribe” which is their version of Twitter’s “Follow.” They are making friend lists easier to make and update…and are auto-populating lists for you! Which is something Google+ didn’t do with Circles (big mistake). They are banking on the nostalgia the scrapbook-esque Timeline will bring to users. And it’s going to do well. Users will hate the change, then get used to it, then love it. Just watch.
The competition that Google+ has started (for lack of a better word, because they can’t technically compete with Facebook right now), is the best thing that could have happened for us users. Facebook is now making changes that benefit us and aren’t just layout and design changes. The user experience is getting prettier, more intuitive, and more fun. We have a lot to look forward to. And I can’t wait.