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Facebook v. Google+ What It’s Really about Is Connectivity

Yesterday, I commented on Dannielle Blumenthal’s “5 Reasons Why Facebook will beat Google+ Easily” In essence: I disagree.

Here are Dannielle’s reasons:

Brand: She says “Facebook is about staying connected with friends. Google is about making the world’s data searchable.” But to me, and most people with GMail, Picasa, Blogger, and Reader accounts, (to say nothing of our Android phones!) Google is much more our portal to all things digital. Google is about storing content and then accessing that content easily. It absolutely is about connecting: with our assets, with our applications, with our family and friends. So a social hub that is built by Google makes total sense.

Monopoly: Dannielle writes “People are going to resent or ignore the company’s attempt to elbow out Facebook just like we resent it when one close friend tries to eliminate another one from our lives” I don’t resent competition. I reward it. If Facebook had integrated my Picasa albums, had built in applications for collaborative work, had allowed me to access all the content from facebook more easily and built a search engine through which I could find content I had posted years before, I’d be happier with it. If Google can offer me that, it’s not elbowing out Facebook, it’s offering me a better alternative.

Insanity: Danielle writes “The definition of which is continuing to do the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Examples: Google Wave. Google Buzz. Orkut. Knol. Face it, Google: Social networking is not your thing” But Buzz was not Wave. And Knol is not Orkut. I appreciate a company that iterates and that makes different mistakes, each time getting closer. (And I’d point out that Orkut is still dominant in Brazil, with 75% of all internet users there maintaining a profile.)

Enemy: I’m not entirely sure what Danielle means by this one. She points out that Zuckerberg has an account on Google+, which make sense. But I’m fairly certain that Sergy has a Facebook account, too. So until I understand this argument better, I’ll leave it alone.

Pravacy: Danielle writes “Google doesn’t seem to get that people actually care about privacy and worry about being tracked online, especially when it comes to their personal email.” All I can say here is that Facebook has its own shoddy record on privacy.

But here are the two reasons why Google+ will succeed (and I’m not saying that Facebook is toast, but it will need to step up its game or change it, that’s for sure):

1. Built in User Base. This is necessary, but not sufficient for success. With all the people who are already using Google products, they have achieved the critical mass needed for success to be a viable option. New social networks have to work up to the user base Google already enjoys. So they have that prerequisite out of the way. As I say, it’s not enough to succeed, but without it, failure is all but certain.

2. Many Layers of Connectivity. I’ve been writing about the difference between connectivity and social media quite a bit recently (including here on GovLoop). And the difference is that connectivity subsumes social media and moves past it, to encompass our ability to access non-social assets. Google added a social layer and a single point-of-entry to the assets of ours that we had already entrusted to it. I have been using Google to store my pictures, for example, through Picasa (soon to be relaunched as Google Photos). I know many people who have been using Blogger, and many more who use GMail. Fewer people use Google Docs, though I think more will come on board. And Google seems to be tieing all of these together through Google+

Danielle is correct in worrying about the privacy and monopoly aspects of this integration. But I think the answer here is not to reject the offering, but to insist upon clear and fair business practices.

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Dannielle Blumenthal

Appreciate the detailed response and feedback. Thanks. I’ll try to respond point by point as well.

1 – Brand: I agree that Google excels at connecting an individual with the individual’s own content. But it can’t seem to figure out how to connect users with one another when the purpose is simply to network. This is where Facebook excels. Interestingly, Apple made the exact same mistake with Ping. The Apple brand is about connecting the individual user to technology simply and accessibly. Nothing to do with social networking. But like Google, they got obsessed with the competition and panicked and tried to create a social network around music. Failure. Here’s another example: AOL buying the Huffington Post. Both are about being a gateway to content, right? Wrong. AOL was (past tense, was – it is a dead brand) about helping technology-scared people get online. Eventually they all got online. So the brand was obsolete. When they bought Huffington in an attempt to be cool and relevant again…they actually ruined Huffington. Well, to an extent. It’s a fine difference between connecting me to my content and connecting me to my network, but it’s an important one.

2. Monopoly – I agree that competition is healthy and let the best brand win. But the issue with Google is that they seem so insecure and grasping for market share. Someone (forgive me I don’t recall the person’s name because I can’t leave this screen to look) commented that Google forced Android users to participate in their service. That was a good comment. Users don’t like to be forced. The more aggressive Google is about trying to take over the entire Internet (the link to the blog on Forbes that I posted mentions that Google employees’ bonuses are tied to success with social networking), the more they will dig themselves into a hole and find that people end up rejecting them. As hard as that may be to imagine.

3. Insanity – well Google is insane if they can’t get it through their heads that they’re just not good at this stuff. At least not in America. I have tried Buzz, Wave, Knol (not Orkut) and honestly, none of them are fun to use nor do they really connect me with anyone. And I sort of like it that way. I like that Google is my own space and not constantly visibly invaded by armies of contacts showing up in every windowpane.

4. Enemy – by this I mean that Facebook is so much better at this than Google that the minute Google+ was announced, Zuckerberg’s profile on Google+ got play in the media. It’s a certain confidence that FB has and Google lacks. It’s so odd to me because Google is a great company. Why can’t they just be themselves and expand on that, instead of so awkwardly trying to be what they’re bad at? (To Kristy’s comment that the user interface is unfriendly…that was mentioned on the Forbes blog too.)

5. Privacy – I never had any expectation of privacy on Facebook which is why I don’t post anything there that couldn’t go on the back of a postcard. Anyone familiar with Zuckerberg’s philosophy should do the same, in my opinion, since there is a clear vision around removing the veil between public persona and private persona, and a view that it is somehow hypocritical to have any division there. On the other hand, Google houses email, which therefore links to a person’s transactions at times. Why would you want to link the same email address you use for an online vendor, to social networking? With all the cyberthieves out there that seems insane to me. But then maybe I am missing something about how Google+ works?

I agree that a built-in user base can be an advantage but I also think that if you abuse the users’ trust, they will abandon and then vilify you. If Google forces its hand with Google+ the way it did with the Droid, I think this could occur.

I can see where the photo-sharing feature could be useful as a model for Google’s future growth in th

Dannielle Blumenthal

…well it cut off the end of the last comment but I was just going to say that Google Apps could be a gateway for Google to expand in the collaboration space – because it emphasizes secure collaboration spaces that are friendlier to use than Sharepoint.

Chris Poirier

Wow..are YOU on Zuckerbergs payroll for coming out and blogging against Google?? (I kid…)


1. Brand discussions here have been beat to death..I’ll let it slide..

2. As mentioned in my break down, if you think even for a moment that Facebook isn’t as aggressively attacking the market space then you are missing what their existence means to its leadership. Just as much as Google is aggressive in obtaining market share Zuckerberg is probably 1000% more so, and is demonstrated in nearly every action he and Facebook as a company undertakes. This is highly unrealistic to claim that both companies are not at least equal in how much they care more about market share then the ends they are providing to their customers..

3. As stated previously, if Google is crazy, then let them continue to fail. I truly feel they may eventually trip over something and this is the beauty of development on the internet and in real time..the right to fail and try again.

4. I still don’t agree with this argument. Just because Zuckerberg is so insecure that he sent his story to every media outlet on the face of the planet, does not make him any more or less the “good business” person than anyone at Google. All of them have accounts with each others tool/application. THAT is good business..not news.

5. To claim Facebook is more secure than Google is a sham at best, both have weaknesses when it comes to security. Nearly equal in the potential for data loss. Though to ice the cake, Google is now in use in the Federal Government enterprise as an enterprise solution for collaboration and email. Facebook, is still blocked to massive security concerns by multiple agencies. Furthermore, I would wager most gmail users have the same level of confidence in google as they do in facebook, which is practically none as BOTH have open ended privacy policies. Also, Facebook is attempting to gain more control of interactions between “friends” this is no different than email and with the expansion of Skype and other collaboration tools in Facebook this argument is quickly becoming mute.