Google+ pluses and minuses

Facebook might have to make some room for Google’s latest social networking project – Google+.

After the beta testing site opened to the public June 28, users were allowed an unlimited number of invites to help get the word out. The site now boasts more than 10 million users in a feat that took its rival, Facebook, more than two years to accomplish.

Yet Google+’s rapid growth shouldn’t have the 750 million-user social network monopoly scared just yet. If anything, Facebook has paved the way for upstart sites like Google+ by being the perfect model product: used by nearly everyone, everyday.

The Oracle takes a look at Google’s latest venture in the world of social media, which is still in its testing stages, and compares it to the blue and white-clad industry standard.

Comparing the two companies

Both Google and Facebook have become casually used culture verbs. One might “Google” something to learn more about it, and “Facebook” somebody to keep in touch with them.

Both companies are estimated to be worth more than $100 billion, but for different reasons. Google’s Gmail is one of the most widely used email providers, and has developed other features for general Internet purposes that are too long to list.

Facebook “like” buttons appear on many third-party sites and some allow you to login using your Facebook account. But aside from that, Facebook is its own world – one that is constantly expanding to adapt to the latest trends. Lingo

Because Facebook and Google have become everyday words themselves, these companies have redefined other words to meet the needs of their site.

On Facebook, “friends” are anyone you don’t loathe enough to decline. “Messages” and “chats” are now synonymous, birthdays are just spam days and random hip-hop lyrics and movie quotes are considered “news.” The only thing you’re actually “poking” is the button on your mouse.

Google’s approach is a tad more sophisticated, but cheesy nonetheless. If you like something, you click the “+1” button. “Sparks” catalogue headlines based on your interests, which offer users real “news” as opposed to Facebook’s definition. Users are just called “people” and you can sort them into “circles” such as friends, family and acquaintances.

These “circles” are one way Google+ might have an edge over the competition. Facebook currently offers “groups,” where people can post on the same wall for all to see with a unified purpose, and “lists,” where friends are sorted for sharing purposes.

“Circles” differ from “lists” in their drag and drop ease of access and less complex steps to ensure that only a select circle can see specific content.

Facebook now offers Skype, but Google+ allows users to “hangout” via webcam. This feature lets up to 10 users video chat simultaneously. Facebook currently does not offer a video chat with multiple user capability.

Features and display

Facebook’s layout is simple and effective – features on the left, a feed in the middle and chat window on the right. Here, Google+ does not break the mold. In fact, the home page looks exactly like Facebook, just a bit more simplified and with different wording.

The best thing about it is the absence of ads. But that should change if the site’s popularity continues to climb. Beatweek Magazine has suggested a “checklist” of future features – such as ads, games, custom URLs and an iPhone app – if Google+ wants to beat Facebook.

As far as features, Google+ is just a skeleton, while Facebook is a casually dressed hipster covered in tattoos. Only time will tell what attire Google+ will don in the end.

Privacy

Facebook is inconsistent. On one hand, the site is overprotective. If you try to log in from a location that Facebook doesn’t recognize it randomly goes through pictures of your friends and asks you whom they are to verify your identity. This assumes you even know whom half of your friends are and that the person trying to hack you doesn’t – fat chance.

On the other hand, the site shares your personal information with third-party groups and uses the information you post to customize ads that appear on your page. As pioneers of the AdSense technology, who knows what advertising tricks Google has up its sleeve.

The bottom line

It’s hard to compare two sites at different ends of the developmental spectrum. Facebook’s mainstream commercialism has made it less cool and the ever-growing list of features make it useful for not much more than a colorful distraction.

Google+ may pose a threat to companies other than Facebook, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Skype. One would think that putting “Google” in front of any product might have it selling like hotcakes, but Google+ comes after several failed social networking attempts, such as Google Buzz. It seems they have finally found one that works.

By integrating it with Gmail, documents and other Google tools, Google+ could become the more professional social network and may lead to what seems like an oxymoron – a social networking site that encourages productivity. In the end, the site is only as strong as the network. Right now, Facebook has a 740 million-user advantage, but that shouldn’t stop Google from competing.

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