After using Google + for a few weeks and fiddling with Facebook for an about the same amount of time I decided to access the two social services. To that end and despite the superficial similarity between Facebook and Google + there is deep undercurrents in the way they are handling their users. This is merely caused by their respective genesises.
Facebook started off a digital equivalent of a regular old facebook. For those of you not familiar all a Facebook is the picture book version of a who’s who. And in all fairness the digital equivalent is still pretty much just that. You have a page, and others, can update so there is an increasing numbers of published iterations. Thus you keep checking the page to see the latest iteration of your published self.
Fairly simple idea but with certain consequences when there is an attempt to monetize the concept. Because the only product is you and your behaviour within the ‘book’.
This is why the ads are so terrible and all over the place in Facebook but it is also why they have this peculiar habit of replicating and/or absorbing a great deal of the web. Which is fine, in its way, but it gets annoying when you are trying to link in and out of facebook quickly. I understand that it is not in Facebook’s interest to allow to jump in and out of their island at will - that might negatively effect their ad revenue - but it is still mildly annoying if you use the internet outside facebook.
And that’s it isn’t it. Facebook just doesn’t feel like the rest of the web. It feels like its own little internalized application that has its own set of rules. Some what like a usenet of this decade. Which would be great if it didn’t have all the constraints of having to work from within a web browser.
Google, on the other hand, started off, and continues to be, a search engine. They are the defacto mass transit system for the internet as a whole and it is in their interest to shuffle you around the internet as quickly as possible. Otherwise, in their head space, at least you would just jump ship to another service like Bing.
This is why Google attempts to get you from your search to the page you want as quickly as possible even if that means you are not exposed to as many ads. The fact that the search bar is in pretty much every respectable browser shows you that much. Furthermore if an advertisement obfuscates the desired link of the user Google would be a less successful search engine. Which in turn would hurt their ability to sell ads in the first place.
The have also been crafty enough to launch an easy to use ad network so that even when you leave googles direct properties they can still sell ads. So content being developed outside their own efforts becomes utilized by their services.
Google walks a fine tightrope in order to keep their users, which are their products after all, and their clients happy. Consider it like free range farming; You get to run around where ever you please but no matter what you still get the chop.
Facebook would be more like factory farming. Keeping you in a very specific spot and only that spot and it is important that you are only feed what Facebook tells you.
The problem, at least for Google, is that Facebook is a walled garden away from Google’s long reach. Since Facebook seems unwilling to play ball with other major players, except Skype, Google + was born so that Google can compete.
Google + is an attempt to bring their free range farming tactics to the social internet age.
For example, A google + hangout has a specific url which makes it its own location for the browser. In the physical world this would be like having the coffee shop to meet up at and there is no wall to make posts on because that would be an extra click and that might annoy users.
And finally, Google + can just absorb apps as google comes up with them, much as the top bar in the search engine did. Facebook, on the other hand is getting continuously more cluttered and their most recent attempt to to stay relevant has all the relevancy of a VHS tape.
What this means to the end user is just that Google + is an attempt by Google to make something that is better than Facebook and with only that goal in mind, with their background in linking, it has the possibility to be the defacto internet social medium. Google is just trying to make your ‘friends’ part of you ferrying about the internet.
However, if you do not want to use the internet and would prefer to hangout in Facebook all day long their is little to entice you out of the monolithic app unless Google manages to absorb users time to such an extent that it becomes impossible to maintain both profiles. I doubt this will happen anytime soon though given that many seem to have time for both.