As PCWorld rightly pointed sometime out last year, the comparison of Google+ vs Facebook (which the masses generally draw) is an uneven one. Google+ is a far bigger picture for Google than one might imagine: my own way of putting it, as I have said to many of my acquaintances, is that Google is on its way to becoming a Skynet, although in a good way as things now stand.
This is part 1 of a 4-part article series on Google+. Read the others here:
For Google as a corporation, the Google+ Project is a landmark venture where they aim to bring together all their products, most of them the best in their niche, to make each thrive on the other and deliver an infinitely better user experience, centering on a users–you guessed it–Google+ profile.
Therefore a better way to put the tie would be, Google versus Facebook. Google+ simply isn’t one product anymore. In my opinion, it is quite ready to take on the Google Search robe as the corporation’s face on the Web. And the project has seamlessly integrated all Google products to such an extent, Google+, with respect to a given user, is really all of Google.
So let us see ten unique places I have spotted, over my stay on Google+ (and since I bid goodbye to Facebook quite a while ago,) where Google fares better enough than Facebook to convince anybody to switching to it. Personally, though, I recommend people not to switch: right now, only select people who share posts worth others’ while are populating Google+1and we do not want this becoming just another Facebook.
Without further ado, let us go through the ten key aspects I have in mind.
1. Google retains your privacy
I recall somebody once saying Zuckerberg (deserves a bravery award because he) values his privacy more than yours.
Facebook has a habit of compulsorily requiring you to make certain sensitive data of yours publicly visible. Google+ has no such strings attached. In fact, all Google requires you to adhere to strictly is that you do not pose as somebody you are not. Understandably, going against this rule will get you banned from all Google products, but I think it is a good thing considering that it will filter out those characteristic Facebook posters (who were probably once characteristic MySpace posters) who waste your time, right at the start.
In short, though, Google+ is designed to allow you to retain absolute control of your privacy at every point of usage, with both specific settings and general preferences.
2. You can say bye with a snap of your finger
No, really. If you have ever tried deleting your Facebook account, you will know exactly what mean. It is impossible to fully delete your posts and updates. And pictures. And notes. And sensitive/embarrassing talk if any.
On Google+ you can use their Data Liberation tool to download all your data, pack up and leave Google+ without a public trace. And when I say all, I mean absolutely everything: your videos, Picasa web albums, shares/updates, contacts and anything else you can think of.
If you have not done it already, I strongly urge you to try deleting your Facebook account. Do not worry accidentally deleting it; you cannot delete in even on purpose.
3. Better group activities
If there is one Google+ feature (apart from photo sharing) that beats every other social network hands down, it has to be Hangouts.
Have you seen what Google did with that poor web camera you get fit into your laptop? I have been invited to roughly thirty hangouts so far (not public hangouts, specific invite-only hangouts) and the interaction is just perfect. I will not be surprised if Facebook comes up with a counterpart, but given the present assets, it would not be hard to guess whose would be better–and who has a head start?
4. Professional setting on Google+
If LinkedIn spelled formal and professional social networking up to this point, I am beginning to feel Google+ will take over now.
Your profile on Google+ is slick, smooth, minimalist and you are in enough control to take out specific things and entirely hide unnecessary stuff. This, coupled with the fact that Google+ has a smaller user base of select individuals, makes way for recognition, good business exposure, personal/freelance popularity and so on.
If you have not begun to do so already, I recommend you harness the true power of Google+ in this regard.
5. Integration within the Web
Some may consider this to be the most important point so far, but I think fifth is where it should stand: but, yes, it is both important and vital.
When I was invited to try Google+ before it was released to the public, I had already begun using Google’s black bar on top without realising others I knew did not really have it on their accounts! The bar was a tad different then, but the concept remained quite the same even after development: to make your network accessible from any Google product at any time.
The way I see it, this would be over half our time on the Web. Consider Google Search, Picasa, Google+, Analytics, GMail, YouTube and any of the several other Google products you can think of. The slim black bar lets you connect to most of these–with specific focus on Google+–from any other product website.
6. Better network management
One thing I used to despise on Facebook was the way people there had (and probably still have) hundreds of so-called friends. If you cannot recount the name of every single one of them, you might as well not add them. Friend requests and status updates were making and breaking jobs and relations–too much hold for a robotic binary programme, don’t you think?
On Google+ you can neatly organise your network into any number of categories, call it anything you want and share specifically, without wasting the precious time of those who do not give a damn about that particular update of yours.
This also nullifies my previous question, just in case you are still wondering. Google’s Circles is arguably their finest concept, mirroring daily life: how we make different circles of friends, meet and talk and share differently with each of them and so on. And Google+ allows you to bring that priceless habit onto your second life on the Web.
It adheres to the age old formula: replicate real life for the best results!
7. Better (best?) mobile application
Whether it be iPhone or Android or any other second-tier mobile OS, you have a Google+ application that stamps the rest to the ground.
Unfortunately, I got my Google+ Android app only a week before its public release and I did not have enough special time to appreciate its numerous, rich features fully. Over time, however, there are some things you will notice2.
Given that Android is also a Google product, the commenting, updating and other such features subtly integrate themselves into the design of the OS and make accessing Google+ a breeze unlike Facebook’s app, or instance, which requires you to access the homescreen repeatedly, for a lot of reasons.
8. Easy to search within Google+
Google’s third much hyped feature is Sparks. I hardly took notice of it before public release–and I doubt anybody else did–but the true power of Sparks became apparent only much later when a good lot of content had been shared. It was like a small, but equally intense, Google Search stitched into Google+ that allowed you to search your network with great ease.
While it is clear that Google’s previous stand as a search engine played a major role in this, what is more important is that this feature, which seems all so obvious now, had been overlooked in every other social network prior to Google+; and in my opinion, none–even if they do appear at a later point of time–will be in a position to beat Google’s Sparks simply because of Google’s leverage in the searching world online.
9. Better photo sharing and tagging
It is by no means an overstatement to say Google+ is the new photographer’s paradise. There was (still is) 500px, Flickr and so on, but Google’s policy, Picasa integration, tagging technology, viewing–and the elephantine photographer count that exists here–seems to have beat them all in one sweep.
10. Google listens to you
That is right. Google values user feedback more than any other multinational corporation I have come across.
Know that little grey box that says Send Feedback on the bottom right? It is quite generally known that the only people who value feedback enough to actually change their site are those who run personal websites, blogs and such. But Google has taken things in good spirit, and that feedback form is actually more advanced than it seems at first.
You are allowed to highlight parts of the page where you plan to give suggestions, point out to errors etc. as well as black out any personal information you wish to keep hidden. Then you type in your suggestion and send it to Google.
Will anything happen? Trust me, they actually listen to you. As I said before, this might not exactly be what one would expect from a company the size of Google but there have been suggestions I have myself made and a number of them I have seconded or chipped into and these have actually been adopted as changes in Google+
It is fun to see your suggestion has been valued and things have been changed for the better. This also keeps with Google’s open-source spirit and makes the network one that is run by its users rather than an unseen body. Good uses people have been making of the feedback box is requesting for slight alterations to the existing Google+ terms of usage and there have been multiple records where Google has brought out changes.
This flexibility is by far the best reason–from a user satisfaction standpoint–to switch to Google+ and dump Facebook for good.
I am not in any way associated with Google or Facebook, and this review has been from a neutral standpoint. Clearly, I state that the scale tips in favour of Google as my list clarifies!
Statistics show 1. most of these are male 2. most are professionally oriented people 3. the users appear to have unanimously maintained a formal ambience around Google+ 4. there is less than even a fraction of the nonsense, cat jokes floating around on Facebook. If asked to put it bluntly, I think I would say, “Google+ is the Facebook for matured people.” ↩
I only speak for Android phones, because I have never used Google+ on any other OS and have little intentions of doing so in the future ↩