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Google+ Vs Facebook: the calm before the storm

As Google+ nears its 3 month birthday it seems a suitable time to take a peek at how the conflict with Facebook is developing. And ‘developing’ is the most appropriate term to use, emphasised by the fact that Google+ continues to greet new users with a message that it is still a ‘field trial’. However, once the full project is up-and-running an inevitable conflict awaits. Just as when Facebook moved from a student to an all-inclusive social network, the battle with myspace was unavoidable. As the Myspace/Facebook saga exemplified, in online world there is only space for one social network. What about Twitter you may ask? Well Twitter has managed to find its place alongside Facebook rather than directly challenging it (something Google+ brazenly does). So yes there will be a confrontation between Google+ and Facebook with only one eventual champion, however, the comparison could end there. Not because Facebook has established itself so firmly as leading the charge for social networking, for Myspace once stood confidently in that position, but because Facebook is taking Google+’s challenge seriously and recognising the threat. The crux of Myspace’s demise was that when Facebook became open to all in 2006, it did not acknowledge the challenge. They failed to see what Facebook’s advantages were and in turn failed to adapt, naively assuming they were so big they could not be toppled. Two years later Facebook was bigger than Myspace and those who had been defeated were frantically making a series of changes, but, it was too little too late. This time round Facebook appears adamant to prevent a similar fate. Unlike Myspace before, Facebook is closely examining the advantages offered by Google+ and mimicking those functions it recognises as genuine threats. By looking at the work Facebook has in the pipeline it is clear they are endeavouring to catch up with Google+’s clever little innovations. Facebook’s ‘smart lists’ are clearly an attempt to replicate Google’ s ‘circles’. The new feature on Facebook allowing you to ‘subscribe’ to people mirrors Google+’s option to follow (much like twitter). Likewise, changes to Facebook’s app and privacy features, display its endeavour to ‘keep up with the Jones’’. The willingness of Facebook to accept that Google might have come up with some ideas better than its own is its greatest strength. So it seems that despite the slickness and advantages of Google+’s circles, hangouts etc….its features alone are probably not enough to topple a giant that is continually evolving (even if for the moment it is playing catch up). However, it would be extremely premature to assume Google+ will fail to overcome Facebook and there are two key issues which could tip the balance in Google’s favour. Firstly despite changes to its privacy settings Facebook has failed to convince it safely guards our information and Google+’s ‘data liberation’ provides privacy assurances Facebook looks unable to match. Trustworthiness, could be a pivotal battleground. Secondly, Google+ has a weapon up-its-sleeve Facebook will not be able to match, integration. That is, Google will build Google+ features and tools into all of its existing online services. Millions of people use Google’s free services (Gmail, Docs, Search, Youtube etc….), and with Google+ bound so tightly to them it may start to seem pointless to jump out to some other site to do your social networking. If effectively harnessed, the potential integration offered by Google+, could be the weapon with which Google conquers Facebook. These are exciting times in the world of social networking, but, with both sides still arming themselves the future is uncertain and it is still very much the calm before the storm.

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