Thursday will bring significant changes to Facebook, and possibly even to Google +. With more content control, security and sharing options, Facebook’s upcoming system update will change the arms-race currently occurring within the social media world. What will Google + do, what innovations will be sparked, in response to Facebook’s announcements today?
Who will win the epic battle? Facebook inches up to take the lead, but we wait with bated breath to see what Google’s next move will be.
Remember the recent uproar over the discovery that all our cell phone contacts were in fact migrated and available on Facebook? Also, remember when there was a whole lot of hooplah over a purported unauthorized and unannounced switch from secure servers for each user? Well, Facebook is responding to privacy issues, as well as widespread complaints about sharing issues, with new features that many are regarding as a response to Google +.
What Has Facebook Changed/Updated/Improved (However You Look At It)?
Everything you wanted Facebook to change, basically. In the blog post announcing the new updates to the social network, Chris Cox opened by saying: “Today we’re announcing a bunch of improvements that make it easier to share posts, photos, tags and other content with exactly the people you want.” Hmm…sounds Circle-y, no? Facebook seems to be inching ever-closer to giving its users reasons not to take their social business elsewhere.
The first change is that privacy settings will be more readily available – on your profile page instead of buried in the settings tab somewhere. What Facebook calls an “inline menu” will now be a drop-down next to your profile’s content, and it will allow you to instantly change who can view your profile (i.e., friends, friends of friends, mortal enemies, etc). Another similar change allows you to more easily find that button that gives you the option of viewing your profile as others see it.
The next change is going to make a lot of people very happy. Now, you can “choose to use the new tool to approve or reject any photo or post you are tagged in before it is visible to anyone else on your profile.” This one calls for a big “YAY!” – it’s been a long time coming. Additionally, if someone wants to tag the photos or posts you have on your wall – you can choose to moderate these as well.
When it comes to sharing things on Facebook, the changes begin to sound familiar. When you share something, you can now tag people you are with and provide your location (and this is something I wrote about a Google feature in an older blog post, “Google Launches Its Social Network, Google +:” “+ Location, you can share your location with your friends (or you can choose not to). This is a good way for your friends to see where you are and decide whether they want to join you wherever you are.”) Interesting…
The Facebook post by Cox adds, “In addition to profile changes, it will now be more visually straightforward to understand and control who can see your posts at the time you share them.” Similar to how you can control who views your profile, you can now view who sees EACH POST. Cox adds, “For each audience, there is now an icon and label to help make it easier to understand and decide who you’re sharing with.”
Facebook’s updated sharing capabilities.
It’s a drop down menu which Cox says will change over time to include “smaller groups of people you may want to share with, like co-workers, Friends Lists you’ve created, and Groups you’re a member of. These will make it easy to quickly select exactly the audience you want for any post.” You can also change who you had originally selected to see each post retroactively. Did you flub and accidentally send an office joke to your family list? Now you can reverse it.
There were couple of more features discussed, but these were the really important ones. Also important are some of 257 comments made on this post:
“Google plus much?”
“G+ is a copy of Facebook at the first place”
“Aka Google +”
[in response to above:] “Without the nice graphics, and with actual belief in the importance of user privacy questionable”
“These all sound like POSITIVE changes, not change just for the sake of change”
“Too late, Google + is waaay ahead of you guys”
“Influenced by Google plus?”
“I’m guessing these changes would have been in the pipeline for a long time, its not something you can come up with in a month. No doubt, Google Plus has them from the beginning, FB just took some time.”
What It All (Possibly) Comes Down To
While there was a great deal of staunch defense for Facebook’s new changes, there were also a hefty number of Google + comments. Despite the varying opinions, and despite the fact that Facebook told Search Engine Land that “the new features have nothing to do with Google + and have been in the works for months, as a response to user feedback” – the similarities are undeniable. All that can be said for sure is that social media in general is shifting from mass communication to segmented – almost clique like – communication. As the platforms promote compartmentalizing your friends, family and acquaintances into “Circles” or “Groups,” one begins to wonder: will these even be the best modes of communication with customers for businesses anymore? Though Google does have some great features for office intranet and even for communication – will these social networks be a place that people begin to flock to only to speak to specific groups of people? Will people still go straight to the social networks to communicate with businesses? Obviously, this remains to be seen, but it is something that everyone should take into consideration: will signing onto Facebook and Google + bring us all back to high school, where cliques dominated?
Search Engine Land’s Greg Sterling wrapped up his post on these developments nicely by saying, “The thrust of all these changes is to give the user total and explicit control over what appears on his or her profile. These changes should be welcomed by all Facebook users and privacy advocates – whether or not that were motivated by Google +.” This is an important development for Facebook because the social media giant has been plagued with bad press surrounding its numerous privacy control issues.
More About Google +
While we’re on the subject of Google +, lets talk a little bit about what’s going on with the social network of late. Reaching 25 million users, it doesn’t seem like the new social network is slowing down – at all, even if it is mostly used by early adopters and middle-aged family oriented people. And, asking himself the question “In a world of social networking overload, why would anyone spend time on Google +,” Mashable founder Pete Cashmore writes about his attempt to find an answer in a CNN article entitled, “Google +: 10 Things It Does Better.” Using a poll of Google + users, Cashmore notes that the following ten elements of the social network are what people think set it apart from Facebook: Circles (this could change after today), privacy (also could change, as Facebook now gives control over who sees what), longer posts that are more insightful, no ads, group video chat, no Farmville (Hallelujah!), better picture sharing capabilities, friendly customer service which makes the network more collaborative (could this be attributed to its new-ness and its still being in a semi-beta testing stage?), less clutter (the clean white appearance is definitely alluring) and integration with other Google products (this is a huge perk that no one can deny – even you, Zuckerberg!).
The Demographics Speak For Themselves
I think, though, that the most appealing thing about Google + right now (and Cashmore agrees, in his article) is proven simply by the demographics of people currently populating Google’s social network, the early adopters. It’s brand spankin’ new; it’s that new toy that you really really want to play with but don’t want to overuse because you’re afraid you’re going to break it. Only more time will tell (and hopefully a few more Pew Internet surveys) how this particular social network will evolve.
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