Why Google+ will Kill Facebook

Google+ is to Facebook for privacy
Facebook is to SharePoint for utilty.

For Utility: Facebook (and social media writ large) begins with the conversation as metaphor. Sharepoint begins (and ends) with the document as the metaphor. It was built with the belief that business users collaborate around producing documents. Social media presumes people have conversations. (I do apologize for picking on Sharepoint. Sort of.)

For Privacy: Facebook was designed for complete openness – its assumption is that we are in a brand new world, where everyone’s information should be available to everyone. Google+ assumes people remain tribal, with shifting identities based on the circle of people with whom they are interacting at the moment. They spent 3 years doing sociological research, asking people to talk about the people with whom they have relationships. They heard people had an average of 4-6 “circles,” each consisting of 10-12 people. (They obviously never talked to me.)

So Google+ begins with an assumption that you don’t tell your mother or co-worker the same joke you tell your wife. You will have circles of relationships whose primary overlap is yourself. And people will move in and out of circles over time – a colleague becomes a friend, etc.

By starting with this basic principle – not trying to bolt privacy onto an open model (much like Sharepoint now attempts to bolt ‘social’ onto a document repository), Google not only answers the main criticism for Facebook, but it feels more natural as a result. (BTW, while it may not kill Twitter as quickly, it’s aiming there as well.)

Of course, believing Google will respect your privacy is a bit of a gamble. Perhaps they are just a bit more clever about things than Facebook ever was…


Flickr image from ‘shyb.’ Happy Friday.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Tom Bullington

Making a statement that something will “kill Facebook” makes for a good, provocative headline, but it doesn’t seem to be realistic given the size and scope of Facebook’s influence in society, not just in the U.S. but internationally. While true that Google+ (or “Circles”) will indeed win a good number of early adapters and long-term Facebook defectors, I’m not buying the argument that Facebook’s days are somehow numbered.

John Bordeaux

It is not meant to be provocative, actually. If you believe Facebook is a permanent feature of our technology landscape, you should know I once believed that the first time I heard a Sony Walkman. My mother’s boyfriend obtained one just before they were introduced in this country, and when I heard that music I just knew the world had changed and this would always be something I would want and treasure. I’ve thought that about 8-tracks, digital cassetes, and so on. Somewhere along the line I realized that cycles meant everything dies. So to say that Google + will kill Facebook is only provocative in the sense that I’m naming the assassin. Everything dies.

Facebook indeed has a significant size and scope, although there are billions who are not on it (Chinese, for one, seem to live on renren.com). Facebook is also not dominant in Brazil (Orkut), Russia (VKontakte), Japan (Mixi.jp), Taiwan (Wretch.cc), Netherlands (Hyves), and South Korea (CyWorld). Remember when MySpace was the “fifth largest country?” Wikipedia says this happened around 2006. By 2008, it was overtaken by Facebook. Yes, Facebook has an unmatched reach today. But it will die someday, the only question is what will kill it? My view is that it dies when something comes along that more naturally matches our inherent social patterns. What do you think will kill it?

Tom Bullington

If Facebook goes down, I think it will take a number of factors (not just one company). Google will make a dent, but certainly won’t “kill” it.

Elliot Volkman

When it comes to social networks and online communities it’s up to us to decide what lives and dies. Google is attempting to improve upon the complaints that Facebook has been ignoring, but that doesn’t mean every user will simply jump on the bandwagon. I like how Google+ is designed, and if they integrate Google apps (documents/calendars) they will appeal to a much wider audience. For those who haven’t yet had the chance to explore G+ I created a breakdown on my personal site.

F. Cavalcante

Google’s first failure was actually not heard you in the search. At least I read his text and I agree that social networks die as the emergence of new technologies supported by thevirtual society. Congratulations reasoning.

John Bordeaux

@Danielle – perhaps, but I promise that traffic to the blog results in zero monetary reward for yours truly.

Rob Carty

Here’s why I think Google+ will gain significant market share to Facebook’s loss:


So Facebook is saying, by this move, that they own our information, conversations, and network. Having watched their actions regarding security of our information in general seems on the mark. While Google may be just a shade different than Facebook on datamining our information (multi-billion dollar companies trend to act a certain way), at least they have “don’t be evil” as part of their corporate ethos.