I Will Leave Facebook (But not Twitter) for Good – You Will, Too

Tomorrow, I am chairing the Social Media in Government Conference, produced by the Advanced Learning Institute, so I won’t be on GovLoop nearly as much as I should, though I will be on Twitter.

There’s been a lot of coverage of Google+ both on GovLoop and around the Web. People are making all sorts of pronouncements, and though I usually try to steer clear of prognosticating, as I review my slide deck for the conference, I cannot help but come to this conclusion: I will leave Facebook for Google+ and I won’t look back.

I predict that many–if not most–people in the workforce will follow me. And most–if not all–people who already use the Google suite of products (GMail, Google Docs, Picasa, Blogger, Google Public Data Explorer) will follow me. The reason why is also the heart of my presentation. In a word: Connectivity.

On Thursday morning, I’ll talk about how connectivity is reshaping government, and to help government leaders and employees understand and implement connectivity, I’ve identified four types of connections: people to (1) each other; (2) digital assets, like photos, documents, and raw data; (3) applications; and (4) things. Simply put, Google+ acts as a single tool that enables each of those connections, while Facebook does not.

There is nothing that one can do on Facebook that one cannot do on Google+ (save, perhaps, play Farmville, but one has to assume that’s not far off). Twitter is something else entirely, and I’ll address that further on.

One of my slides shows a visualization of layers as they are used in various applications, like Photoshop and Flash. In Flash, users can create a base layer of graphics and then add layers like “music,” “buttons,” “animation,” and “action script.” I apply that idea to our lives, arguing that we can think of reality as a “base layer,” onto which we can add other layers, like “language,” “electricity,” “finance,” and “government.” We can also add a layer called “social.”

The social layer allows us to complete manual tasks more quickly (“many hands make light work”) and mental tasks more completely (“none of is as smart as all of us.”). The social layer helps us find things faster (“honey, have you seen my keys?” “everyone should read @digiphile’s latest: http://oreil.ly/nvYkUn #GOV20″), compile and vet information more rapidly (Wikipedia) and direct action more precisely (Ushahidi: Haiti).

What Google+ represents, especially for people already using Google’s other tools, is the application of a social layer onto digital tools through which we already connect to each other, digital assets, applications, and things. Where Facebook was spawned, as its name suggests, in a college setting, divorced from productivity and directed solely toward social, Google+ is exactly that: it’s an additional layer over productivity tools we’re already using.

In another post, I wrote that any social network would have to achieve critical mass to succeed; Google+ already has more than 10 million members, by some estimates, and even if only current GMail users move to the platform, Google will catapult to nearly 200 million members – critical mass indeed. Moreover, many organizations both in the private and public sector rely on Google for their IT infrastructure (Hello, Los Angeles). Google+ can likely count on those users to help it both define and refine its value as a social layer on top of its productivity layer.

I’m not suggesting that Facebook as a company is necessarily toast. But I am suggesting that the Facebook of 2013, if there is to be one, will look and behave very little like the Facebook of 2011. Its interface excels at only one kind of connection (people to one another) and is merely an add-on to our lives. Google (again, especially for users of its products) is central to our lives.

Not Ruling out Twitter

So why will Twitter be untouched by Google+? In a word: Tweetdeck. Tweetdeck, or Hootsuite, or whatever other compiler we may use, allows for an information-dense, easily- and quickly-customizable dashboard that the simplicity of Twitter’s data allows. It’s wrong to see Twitter as a “social” network; rather it’s an “information” network. As Mark Drapeau writes, Twitter has become both infrastructure and content. There’s plenty of room for both Twitter and Google+.

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Alexander B. Howard

For what it’s worth, and for a number of reasons, I don’t plan on leaving Facebook for some time. My social graph would need to be duplicated on +, for one, and 750 million readers are more than I can neglect as a tech writer online. Much to think about here.

Gadi Ben-Yehuda

Thanks, Alex. I hope you won’t mind if I say that not all 750 million Facebook users read you. I think it’s fairer to say that some subset does, but I think it’s also reasonable to think that that subset will likely migrate–in whole or in part–to Google+. Further, I’m not suggesting that we remove the “like” buttons from our pages, nor that in the near-term we should neglect Facebook. But eventually, I think G+ will eclipse Facebook.

I’ll see if I can record my presentation; I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

Scotty Bevill

But this only goes back to the discussion about time. If i were a product owner of say consumable products, the world that uses my products is very much the Facebook Fan world. Now, I’m not. I run a boutique consultancy with many facets, much like the social network of the future. I see each having it’s place. Any notion there is a be all end all is way off in the distance. Capitalism for one will ensure that never happens. There will always be bigger, faster, better. With the open hardware and open software movements, there will be sandboxes for development.

I say it still comes back to context. What’s the context of your business? Your family? I still to this day, rarely use google docs. My work requires more security than any of the public sights allow. Therefore, we have to maintain physical security and most things get scrubbed anyway.

That is not to take away from your message here, but I don’t see myself becoming a Google+ only user and I won’t be leaving facebook simply because a new social media came out from one of the corporations.

Did the world jump to Pages? No, they bought Office for Mac. Why? Compatibility. I think there is a lot to be left in this space. There is so much you say that I have to agree with, but nothing is going to happen overnight. Google can still blow this, either through security, bad support, etc…. I tend to base my opinion on the long term standing of each platform. Google+ is cool enough to watch and see how it develops, but I’m with Alexander, there is so much consumer money invested in Facebook and Social Media Gardening, G+ has some road to put behind it, Let’s see what happens when the beta is complete and they start their release. I wonder how well it will handle the flux of requirements from millions of stakeholders.

Mark D. Drapeau

This seems to ignore the fact that Facebook is not simply a social network, but rather also a platform on which people can build software/apps which interact with the social graph.

Stephanie Slade

I think you make a strong case here. I doubt I’ll leave Facebook altogether, but I definitely already use it far less than I once did. Twitter has supplanted Facebook for me. Where Google+ fits into the equation I think is TBD.

Gadi Ben-Yehuda

Mark: sure, people “can build” software and apps which interact with their social graph. But most of those have either been games or analytic tools of the social graph itself. There’s no collaborative workspace within facebook. No one has built a “facebook drive,” to store documents (though you can upload pictures there, but I doubt anyone is seriously using it for backup storage). Facebook has yet to try to make itself anything other than social, which itself is an important function, but, as I say, it’s only one layer, while Google is multi-layered with robust productivity (an essential layer for most people not in college) an essential component.

Gadi Ben-Yehuda

Scott: I see your first point, but this isn’t “consumable product producer loop,” it’s GovLoop, so most people here, I’m willing to bet, would benefit from Google’s productivity suite.

I’d also draw your attention to this line: “But I am suggesting that the Facebook of 2013, if there is to be one, will look and behave very little like the Facebook of 2011.” I’m a hard-core capitalist, and part of that means that I believe companies will compete and when one comes out with an obviously superior product (as I believe Google+ is compared to Facebook), the other company must either adapt or die. I think it’s more likely that Facebook will adapt, and if it can’t we’ll certainly see something else, but it won’t be like it is today.

Chris Poirier

I have to echo Gadi on his point about software and apps, Mark. Google pushed their application based API to the world for development as well. It’s a little over focused to make the assumption that Facebook has the market cornered on individual application development and use with “social networks.” They certainly may be a leader, at this time, but I don’t think anyone can truly claim much else than market share right now. To that end, I get to Gadi’s counter point to Scott: If we were talking market share, business development, etc sure, however for the sake of innovation, etc the game is yet to be decided as we’re just getting past the coin flip at this point. (yeah, I made a sports reference..and as a geek..I feel a little “unclean” after that..)

Alicia Mazzara

I think it’s still early, but I’ve been impressed with how quickly people are adopting Google+ and exploring it’s new features. Facebook isn’t any slouch though; they’ve been changing all along and I suspect will push hard to adapt to this as well. I wouldn’t expect the Facebook of 2013 to look the same as the Facebook of 2011 even in the absence of Google+. But I agree that we will probably see some more radical changes as a result of competition.

Scotty Bevill

If we are then, ignoring that it’s govloop.com and not .gov, eliminating the GSA, private consult, project engagement, all of which are outsourced considerably to the commercial sector, I will follow that rabbit, but let’s acknowledge for the sake of confirmation bias over true reasoning that our discussion is now about a smaller percentage of social users. Because of security requirements and the networks and NOCs mandating the boundaries of the federal networks and bureaus, we can open a different can of worms. From application authorization, firewall exception, standardization, and what you call the productivity suite, I am not a person I that train. I disagree completely with the amount of money spent on government networks and infrastructure to have FOUO or ant productivity to be put in a free social online “productivity suite” of applications.
If Google takes the government because it’s open on the firewall, but others like Facbook ar not, then I say with this latest development, Google should be challenged again for certification of their apps. What opened the firewall in th first place to allow for “docs.google.com” was just placed in the same category as Facebook user base, content, and traffic, which may not have passed two years ago. With that said we get down to the same discussions.

What are the requirements to certify an app for gov use? I wont go into this one in this forum.
Has the application suite changed enough to be considered a major revision? Id say so.
Based on the first two questions, do we modify the certification with a gov version?
Then do we have a Gov version of Facebook in Dev for equal opp?

The questions become much more difficult at this point and I would love to be a part of this challenge. In short, it’s irresponsible to allow SaaS to be approved, then watch it change, get security challenged, and the redeployed to the world wide masses while there is a hole in a firewall without the risk and iterative review that protects the network behind that firewall.

Other software is certified by version and Beta is simply forbidden. google seems to have gotten around this fact, because they are Google? Because they’ve been the family house let for so long that we think it’ll never bite the kids? Maybe it’s a policy issue and we need to consider it wasn’t their fault, but still needs to be reviewed. Etc.. Etc… I co uld go on here for days.

All in all, without mediation I think Google will easily dominate the .gov space, simply for lack of option and failure on the govs part to ensure It’s reviewed and still meets its requirements. If the government is my customer, awareness of my oproducts and service fortunately aren’t decided on social media, but will be impacted as we evolve.

So do we stop talking about which one will win and star asking the hard questions about certification and authorized platforms? I think so. When it comes to gov, as you so put it, preference is much less the driver of adoption and policy takes over. K If you know who is performing these studies, let me know, I’d bring all of my years of engineering to bear on the topic of gov use in social media. Thanks for channeling this discussion Gadi. I don’t know how far down I’d be willing to go in the realm of security online, but this is great.

Scotty Bevill

As a society, I agree, and I hope Google holds to their word they are trying to open Facebook for the sake of innovation, not dominate it and make it go away. Seems we are injecting the need to choose one over the other.

The point made about your son’s school, a community organization, colleagues, etc… is exaclty why I made the point he put the conversation in the context of the government. With anyone in world capable of FB and G+, the government cannot and should not take the risk associated with “sharing” it’s information across these platforms without extensive tax dollars being spent in diligence. With the glaring issues of security of the Internet alone, aside form Google, FB, or Twitter, the question wold be whether they will make a lot of money developing this need for government resources. Then the question has to asked, is it worth it to the rest of the tax payers for goverment employees to benefit from their own “private social network”, I would say no.

The notion this discussion became about government over any commercial entity, made most of our perspectives on preference and personal lives irrelevant and opened a must more difficult debate. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to speak for the government at large, but I think we as a nation have more to worry about than whether or not we can share photos of a convention at with our friends.

Jeremy Sutherland

Currently, Facebook is the social network and Google’s suite is the online work space … but if Skype and Bing are being integrated now into Facebook now, how long until Microsoft 360 is also added to the Facebook combo? And if this happens, would it tip the conversation back in favor of Facebook (and indirectly Microsoft?)

As an unbiased consumer, it sure is exciting to watch these giants battle to make the latest & greatest!

– Jeremy


James E. Evans, MISM, CSM

I agree with your writings Gadi. The connectivity scores high with me. I’ve been leaning away from Facebook for a while now. This just might tip the scale in Google’s favor.

Hillary Hartley

The key qualifier here is “in the workforce.” This goes along with what many people are saying, and I agree, that G+ is not so much a Facebook-killer as a LinkedIn- or [insert network here]-killer.

I don’t see the average user abandoning Facebook for G+, but for people genuinely interested in productivity + connectivity, you are absolutely correct.

Hillary Hartley

@Jeremy Sutherland — Facebook has made feeble attempts, but it’s not what their core user wants. Anyone remember Microsoft’s http://docs.com?? Exactly. And while the Skype integration sounds cool in theory, how many people are going to turn it off for fear of being randomly called by their long lost high school friend?

Just my $0.02…

Andrew Krzmarzick

The key for Google here is to better integrate G+ with their email interface. That’s where most people 30 and over live – in their emails – and who are likely the core target audience for +. Most folks under 30 use FB as the previous generation uses email and I think it will be hard to wrestle them away from “home.” I’m sure there aren’t any surveys yet to get a sense of demographics for G+ adopters, but my hunch is that it trends older…and Google will have to find other hooks to make G+ the future…vs. an add-on to the productivity suite of people who are already (getting) on board with Gmail and GDocs.

Alicia Mazzara

I’m curious about this statistic that most people under 30 use FB as their primary messaging service. I personally hate using FB to message people and only do it when I don’t have their email addresses. Maybe my peers and I are anomolies, but I live in my Gmail and find that a lot of my peers do as well, partly for the chat functionality. Attending college or working in an office environment foists email upon you because everyone else is relying on it. So, I would go so far as to say that Google+ email integration holds a lot of appeal for people in their 20s as well.

Kent Cunningham

In terms of “sharing”, I’d just like to add that Docs for Facebook has been around for about a year already, and that Facebook is rapidly adding email support. It will be interesting to see where this goes in the next 12 months for sure, as the market is still evolving very rapidly.

Julie Chase

We finally are allowed to get to Facebook at work because our installation now has a FB page. However, I cannot get to GovLoop and a few other Gov information sites. As for other (i.e. personal) email addresses, we are not allowed to log into them on a gov computer. I am amazed that you all can social network on the clock. I will have to check out the new Google+ at home. I doubt I will leave Facebook, too much invested in it of my time. And at work, well, Uncle Sam is “watching”.