Yesterday, Google + opened to the public after nearly 3 months of testing and nearly one hundred improvements made. Today, Facebook débuted another new layout. Coincidence? I think not. And if anyone thinks this is a coincidence, clearly they have not been paying attention.
Now, when Facebook merged with Skype to bring video chatting to a more social level, many said it was Mark Zuckerberg’s reaction to Google +’s hangouts. He denied it. And when Facebook changed privacy settings recently so that users could choose who exactly saw their various status updates (among other new capabilities), many claimed that this act was Facebook’s reaction to Google + Circles. Again, Facebook’s team denied it. And yesterday, as we mentioned in a slightly off-topic tangent in our post, Search Engine Optimization Tips, Google improved several features of its social network before making it available to the public. We’re pretty good at recognizing patterns, so we knew Facebook had a reaction (and a denial) coming. And now the changes are here, and they have a lot of users fed-up with the many faces and many changes of Facebook.
Changes to Facebook
I’m sure you’re sick of seeing screenshots of my Facebook page, but you’ll have to bear with me one more time…
This is what shows up to the left of my newsfeed. Now, everything is divided into “Lists” for me (before, Facebook did have a feature where you could create “Groups,” but it was an option, not a requirement). So, my friends are broken up into “close friends,” “acquaintances,” “family,” the people I work with, the people I went to high school with, the people I went to college with and people living in my area. Way to promote compartmentalizing, Facebook! Now, those annoying little numbers will show up next to each list whenever people update their statuses.
Here’s what I don’t get: Why would we want to be involved in two social networks that do the same thing? Isn’t variety the spice of life? Now, I have to manage my cliques on Google + and my lists on Facebook? That’s not really what I’m looking for. This just makes me want to pick one and stick with it. Yes, more people use Facebook, but Google + has made some very cool changes to +Hangouts that will likely have many people who disregarded it after 2 weeks flocking back to it immediately. Or, maybe I’ll just go over to MySpace (it’s coming back!) and avoid the Frakas altogether.
And then there are the “real time” updates that are situated just above the obnoxiously long list of people in my chat list. This kind of makes me feel a bit like a stalker; I can see whenever someone comments on something, or updates his or her status, and I can see it right away, like I’m watching him or her. I would provide a screenshot of this, but I’m not looking to make public what an old acquaintance from high school is eating for breakfast right now.
And while we’re on the subject, what is this new “subscribe” capability? It seems like it’s similar to “following” someone on Google + or Twitter. So I’ll probably just stick with following people on those networks.
The Bottom Line
Facebook, I love you. You got me through some less than captivating times during my high school and college careers; you help me keep in touch with some good friends. Also, I kind of like how on my wall my pictures are organized in square formation now – I’ll give you that. But other than that, I’m one to value originality, and trying to trump Google’s social network at every turn with VERY similar features is a turn-off. I believed you the first time you said the changes you were making were not a reaction to Google +, but you know what they say: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice (or even, thrice!), shame on me!
And Google – today’s home page announcement: “Watch a live Google + hangout with will.i.am tonight at 9p ET” is brilliant:
This is a great way to draw in those who didn’t already join the social network during its test phase and promote your social network. And the giant arrow pointing to the “+You” (where you go for Google +) is a pretty blatant marketing tactic. I can’t say transparency is a bad thing, though, so kudos!
Okay, that’s the end of my rant. What do you think about Facebook’s changes and the duel between Google + and its 750-million-user strong foe? Comment here or drop by our Facebook page and let us know!
UPDATE (9/22): Mashable reports that at the new F8 conference this week, Facebook will be revealing something earth-shattering:
“The changes Facebook will roll out on Thursday are designed to enhance the emotional connection its users have to each other through Facebook. These changes will make Facebook a place where nearly everything in your life is enhanced by your social graph. These changes will make it so you know your friends better than you ever thought you could. On Thursday, developers will be elated, users will be shellshocked and the competition will look ancient. On Thursday, Facebook will be reborn. Prepare yourselves for the evolution of social networking.” I may be biting my tongue about this post when these changes are revealed (today, supposedly!). Stay tuned!
UPDATE (9/23): By now, you have all probably seen what the Facebook overhaul is going to look like: a “timeline” – basically a history of everything you’ve ever done on Facebook – will now make up your profile, and you will be able to use “Gestures” other than “liking” to share content. Also, music streaming is coming to the social platform, among other things. What do you think of the changes? Let us know here!
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