Just a few days ago it emerged that Facebook was now the 2nd most visited site in the UK. Google, which takes the number 1 most visited slot, has seemed for the past while to be uncharectaristically knocked off guard by the massive rocketing in popularity of the current biggest social networking site in the world.
Today, Google’s own retaliation has kicked into gear. Whilst there’s been access for a while, this is the day that the world is starting to sit up and take notice. Google+ follows a number of unsuccessful attempts by the Mountain View search engine giant to break into the ‘social media’ sphere in any meaningful way, and this time, it looks like they’ve got it right.
Google didn’t get where they are today by sitting by and having half-hearted jabs at technology, and the approach to this latest endeavour is no doubt a lot cleverer and well planned than people realise. Everything from the drip-by-drip invitation approach to the changes to the other suite of Google Apps (gmail, search, etc..) have whipped up a lot of excitement. After all, this is Google we’re talking about. For most people, they pretty much are the internet.
Why’s this interesting?
I’ve been fairly vocal about my problems with Facebook, and other similar social networking sites. Whilst there are inherrent problems in any such platform, my main issue is an ideological one. The arrogant stance of Zuckerberg’s ‘single identity’, presented in one place, from one angle, with people presented as flat personalities in checklists, is something that I completely reject.
Google has turned this on its head, with the focus shifted away from the user’s profile as the main contact space, and comments then made (a la Facebook, or the big creaking grandparent Myspace). Instead, instead of tagging or putting people into categories, you have circles of friends that you can choose to interact with separately, or all at once depending on your needs and desires. You don’t all need to be ‘friends’ with everybody all of the time. It lets you separate work and personal life far more effectively, and is what I’ve been waiting for.
This may seem like a simple thing, but it actually betrays an underlying fundamental difference in approach. With Google you can be the complex, multi-faceted person that operates in different worlds in different ways; choosing to focus on one rather than the other. In Facebook, you are a single personality moving in all worlds… all the time. As I’ve already said, this isn’t a crazy concoction of mine, but one that the Facebook ‘founder’ has pushed and promoted himself.
On top of all of that is the integration. Whilst Facebook is like a walled garden away from the rest of the internet, Google creeps into every orifice… running your email, your videos (Youtube), and a whole host of other things. Instead of separating off into a new private party, Google+ fits in amongst the internet that you’re already a part of. It’s incredibly clever, and far more in the spirit of the free internet that I grew up believing in whilst playing with IRC servers and messageboards aged 13.
To all of those that can’t imagine Facebook ever losing its foothold, it’s worth remembering that one of the mightiest networks of all was last week sold off for a fraction of the price that it was bought for initially. I’ll let you work out which one for yourself.
Personally, I can’t wait for the same fate to befall Facebook. Good riddance.