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This article was published on October 2, 2011

Facebook vs. Google+ – A Tale of the Tape

Facebook vs. Google+ – A Tale of the Tape
Drew Olanoff
Story by

Drew Olanoff

Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for onlin Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for online charitable movements. He founded #BlameDrewsCancer. You can follow him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, or email [email protected]

It’s easy to draw comparisons between Facebook and Google+. Sure, the two products are both “social networks” in which you can add friends, share content, and interact. But the two are actually very different and serve very different purposes. A lot of people in the press decide to use headlines like this to make an interesting story, but once you really dive into each product experience, you can tell that the two are not alike at all. There is one battle though, and that’s a battle of developer agility, uniqueness, and user base. That’s the only “vs.” here.

The purpose

The purpose of Facebook is to connect friends and friends together, so that you can keep in contact with them. Facebook is where you announce a new relationship, show everyone who your mother is, and get kudos on your birthday. It’s a very personal experience, and with the new timeline profile display, the experience got even deeper and more personal.

Google+ on the other hand is more about discovery. Discovery of content, and perhaps making some new friends, or being impressed by a current friends interests in a new way. Sure, Facebook has a news feed and you can watch the links and videos trickle in there, but Google+ has a different experience, one that now includes search.

Google+ is driven by search, and Facebook is driven by human connection.

It’s a classic Robot vs. Human. There’s no “winner” here, the two are different experiences.

The agility

I’ve been watching Facebook and Google very closely for the past few years. The last Six months has been the most active for the two companies when it comes to social. It’s not so much a feature war, it truly is a battle of quality.

Facebook has done amazing things with Photos and Videos, and most people take it for granted. Its service is rarely disrupted, the way it displays photos and video are elegant, and it’s amazing to think that these projects were started during a famous Facebook hackathon.

Google+ is Google’s first real social venture. The company has been working on it for years we’re told, and it shows. The Google Hangout experience is amazing. People think of Skype first when they think of video conferencing, but honestly Google+ destroys them with its handling of a large room of people talking in a video hangout. The video switches as people talk automatically, that alone is absolutely awesome.

The speed is not as important as the quality of the work, but both companies have exhibited that each can do both. No wonder the two are battling for talent. The survival of the fittest is at play here.

The business

Again, this is a man vs. machine model. Sure, Facebook has algorithms, but those algorithms are based on interpersonal relationships and interactions. Google doesn’t focus on connections so much that we can see yet, and as usual is focused solely on data.

There is no “winner” here yet. I have said for years that “the people are the platform”, and I still believe it to be true. The people who use a service are vastly more important than the service they’re using. Zynga would not be so popular on the Facebook platform unless there were people obsessed with playing its games and sharing every single mundane milestone they hit on said games.

Facebook flopped with project “Beacon”, its way of using people to sell product. However, seeing Spotify’s early success on Facebook’s platform shows the true power of people. Spotify is going to be a huge company with huge success, and huge profits.

Google on the other hand bought YouTube. A purchase that goes overlooked quite a bit, and that’s exactly what it wants. We all use YouTube, and Google has added its search and Adsense infrastructure to it, and it’s a beast.

Two different models of monetization here using two different approaches.

The end game

You may very well want to use both services. It truly shouldn’t be a one or the other, or a one is better than the other thing. Black and white doesn’t apply here. Things aren’t binary, even when it involves computers.

Facebook will be around for a long time, don’t believe the hype-creep on that. The company is not going to sell to a larger company, get rid of the founder, and then crumble. Zuckerberg is brilliant, the team he surrounded himself is brilliant, and its doing things to enable us to engage with people we haven’t talked to in years, and people we talk to everyday in ways we didn’t think were imaginable.

Google has opened up the world’s information for us. By typing a word into a search box, we can immediately get all of the information that we want. In seconds. Remember when you forgot who starred in that movie you liked? You had to call your brother, mom, uncle, cousin, and best friend. That was BG. Before Google. Google changed the world, and continues to do so.

You may complain about changes, and you may complain about features, and you may want to start a vs. war with Facebook and Google and that’s fine, because everyone is entitled to an opinion.

The real truth is, that we use these services for free. We do absolutely pay with our information and data, but that data is something we’ve shared since the beginning of time. It’s just now being stored.

Why not use Facebook and Google+? You might end up being the true winner.