Social networking appears to be here to stay; human beings are social creatures, and we love to know what our peers are doing and thinking. The platform, however, can definitely shift and change with time. Crowds are notoriously fickle, and a platform that seems awesome one day can seem outdated and lame the next (MySpace, anyone?).
Facebook has around 800 million users – that is more than double the population of the United States. But I am here to tell you why in two years, Facebook will shrink to become a shriveled remnant of its current glorious self, squashed by the inexorable rise of Google’s social network. Read on to see how the future unfolds.
Embrace & Extend
If the phrase “embrace and extend” has a familiar ring to it, that’s because it was a part of Microsoft’s notorious strategy, Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish. But Google of 2011 is a very different beast than Microsoft of the early nineties – far more sophisticated and aware of the danger of seeming monopolistic. So they’re not going to “extinguish” Facebook with proprietary extensions or anything as crass. Rather, they are simply going to integrate Google+ so tightly with all of their other services, it would seem like an inseparable part of your online existence. Which leads me to the next point:
It Feels Like A Part Of The Web
Facebook has been repeatedly described as a “walled garden”, even by such heavyweights as Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Even if you’re not the dude who actually invented the World Wide Web, you can probably understand why Facebook is a walled garden; it feels closed off. You have to log in to see just about anything; you “go on Facebook”, and Facebook apps run “on” Facebook. Conversely, Google+ seems to be everywhere at once, even at this early stage. The new Google Bar makes it seem even more so, because all of the links to Google services have been folded into the logo, making your profile image even more noticeable than before.
The fact that Google’s +1 button embedded all over the Web are interactive adds to the pervasive feel. You get to share the current site and say something about it without ever really leaving it or “going on Google+”.
The Search Advantage
Now, why is that +1 button getting plastered all over the Web? That’s because many webmasters feel it may help them rank better on Google searches. SEO is a huge industry, and Google is ever secretive about the myriad of factors it uses to rank websites. “Social signals” (Facebook and Twitter shares) are thought to be used, and so are Google+ shares. So naturally, every serious website trying to get somewhere in the online world will embed a Google+ button, giving Google+ amazing market penetrations (even more so than Facebook’s Like button, I believe).
Users Trust Google
Facebook’s disregard for the privacy of their users is notorious. So much so, that the FTC recently accused Facebook in engaging in “unfair and deceptive” practices. The FTC eventually made Facebook play nice, but it didn’t have to do the same with Google. Google has somehow managed to avoid the ire of users so far, and has not gained the notoriety Facebook has.
Circles are a fantastic concept; they are at the very core of Google+, and they fix a huge problem with Facebook. Why would I want my grandmother to see pictures of me partying? Facebook does have “groups” and a degree of selective sharing, but it feels bolted on. Circles feel like an intrinsic part of Google+ – something built into the system from the ground up. They make managing a wide network of contacts effortless, and more importantly, they make online content sharing feel safe.
Early Adopters Are Already There
“Everybody” is on Facebook; that’s great. But I say, the really important people (at least in the tech space) are already on Google+. And if you message someone on Google+, they are more likely to notice you. The trendsetters are there, and the rest of the world will inevitably follow.
I could probably think of several more reasons why Google+ is going to leave Facebook in the dust, but I think these are compelling enough. Do you already use Google+? Did I convince you to start? Or am I dead wrong, and Facebook is here to stay as reigning king of the social networking world forever more? Let me know in the comments!