Google Plus vs. Facebook: David vs. Goliath or a Boon to Innovation
“I ‘liked’ your picture!”
Does that mean you don’t like my picture anymore?
In the world of internet social networking, namely on Facebook vernacular, the answer to that question would be “no, she clearly likes my picture still.” Thus, you see how social networking sites have affected our society, language, culture, communication and what not. Facebook has redefined words such as “like”, ”wall”, “share”, “status” among many others. If you have been keeping up to date then you would know that Bangladesh has roughly 18 lacs Facebook users even when we are in a wormhole of poverty. It is not irrelevant to recall the dialogue from the movie “The Social Network” (which was about Facebook) that “In Somalia, they don’t have food, but they still have Facebook.” Such is the impact of social networking sites in the world today. However, there is new boy in the block to rival Facebook’s domination over all other social networking sites and it is none other than Google’s aesthetic masterwork “Google Plus.”
Who or what is “Google+”?
Google+ or Google Plus is the next giant website in the social networking paradigm operated by Google Inc. On June 28, 2011 Google launched it rather silently which is typical to their traits. However it was an invite-only website back then and only a few users (me being one from Bangladesh) were privileged to test it out in order to clear out bugs. Later on that week the users could invite friends (given an age restriction of 18 and above in contrast to 16 that Facebook has). From there on started the overflow of tech-savvy users who were attracted like moths to a flame. Thus the invitation process was disabled for a while due to the inability of carrying such server loads of masses of people wanting to create profiles.
However, the lucky day had dawned for the tech-savvy individuals on September 30, 2011 when Google+ was launched for everyone (with the age limit of 18 years or more). From there on there has been an inundation of growth in the Google+ community worldwide.
The success of such rapid growth of Google+ was the fact that they had every other component or parts of the puzzle ready a priori to the launching. All they had to do was to do an integration of several services and Wallah! Google+ integrated services such as Google Buzz and Google Profiles among many others. Moreover, if you had a gmail account, you already were a member of the community. It introduced new ideas to the networking experience such as Circles (a novel approach to privacy), Hangouts (video-chat with more than two persons) and Sparks (an intelligent system to detect and monitor your preferences). Moreover, the support of its capabilities on mobile phones running Android operating system and IoS (the operating system of most Apple Gadgets) has given them vast popularity in a short span of time.
The New York Times have declared it Google’s biggest attempt to rival Facebook – the social networking giant. This leads us to the debate of who is winning?
It would be unfair to Google+ to draw any conclusions yet since it has not yet celebrated a single birthday party yet; however, it is meaningful to compare and contrast the performances of the two titans.
Facebook was launched in February, 2004 and founded by Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes when they while they were studying in Harvard University. Yes, it is ironic that you may not recognize the three other names that follow Mark Zuckerberg as it is him who gained the celebrity status becoming the world’s youngest billionaire. The success story of Zuckerberg is clearly a portrayal of his brainchild – Facebook. Currently, Facebook has more than 800 million active users worldwide (of which 1.8 millions come from Bangladesh making us quite an active participant of the global celebration of connectivity). The word “active” is very important in this context and if you are a Bangladeshi and a Facebook user then you already know why that is. Just having an account on Facebook did not make it thrive; rather the active participation of the users is what makes this “virtual” community alive! Moreover, Facebook was the first site to introduce ideas such as status, location, wall, the famous “like” button (that apparently everyone “likes”). What gave them the edge over all the existing websites of the similar genre was the “news feed” which gave users recent information on all that is hip and going around. The beauty of the pages was of significance too. The reason Facebook prevailed over MySpace, Twitter (which only succeeded in USA) and Hi5 was the fact that they were constantly improving. Facebook is innovating as we speak. Therefore periodical makeovers and ideas have been added and modified to the global phenomenon known as Facebook and it is going stronger than ever.
The Blame Game
As I mentioned earlier, as Google+ was launched only this year whereas Facebook has been around from 2004, Google+ has had the time to research on user needs and interests and devise an innovative plan when Facebook clearly laid the foundation. That is why one may argue that Google+ owes its foundation to Facebook which they never acknowledged but then again they introduced innovative features which Facebook never had. Then again, Facebook Inc. first decided to file a lawsuit earlier this year but they retracted from that decision and the reason of which is probably what transpired next. Something ironic started to happen. Whenever Google+ introduced an innovative feature, Facebook added one of their own versions within almost 7 days rendering all users of Facebook to “stay” on Facebook rather switching over to the other side. Thus, “the blame game” started. CNet, ZDNet and other pioneering reviewers call this the greatest rivalry on the web with positive outcomes. Facebook blames Google+ for their sheer existence and Google+ now blames Facebook for taking their ideas. Even though this is a vicious circle, both of the giants are improving and innovating in their own regards too – which is a boon for technology worldwide.
Zuckerberg opens up Google+ account!
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg – the “face” of Facebook was under a lot of media pressure when he decided to open a Google+ account and actually went through with it on July 4, 2011. It was surprising to the press and media that Zuckerberg had opened an account on his rival website. When asked about this, Zuckerberg, being the comic that he typically is, said that he was just one of the millions of computers enthusiasts who wanted to look around what is new with this hyped website. He claimed to be a commoner and a user of the website. But critics termed his actions as an epitome of the phrase “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
It is too early to tell if Google+ is better than Facebook (or vice versa). More accurately, that question may not be justified after all since both the titans of social networking are trying only to increase the users’ conveniences. However, if statistics are the judge then Facebook is indeed winning even though Google+ has a higher growth rate. Studies also say that the growth will saturate at a particular level unless something drastic transpires. Most internet bloggers claim that even though masses of people have joined Google+, most of them are not “active” there – “it is a safe haven for scientists”, some bloggers claim. Adding insult to injury, the counter action of Facebook has been exemplary. Facebook has shown more innovation in the last few months than they had in the past 2 years. It seems the rise of Google+ gave them a wakeup call and they definitely handled the challenge with glory. Therefore, Goliath (being Facebook) is still at large but no one should count out David (Google+) from the battle. All technology enthusiasts are watching as events unfold between Facebook and Google+. This is one rivalry that is going to result in innovations rather than destruction.
Adnan Firoze, Student, Dept. of EECS, North South University, Dhaka