I covered the basics of each respective service in a previous post, so it’s time to get into more interesting matter. Two questions that need answering for any newcomer choosing between the two services are:
1) Who exactly is using each service?
2) How does each service approach privacy concerns?
I won’t give any clear-cut opinion as to what you should be choosing to use, as this is a personal decision, but at least you will be able to lay out the facts and make an informed pick. Let’s get down to it.
Facebook’s Maturity Gives it an Equalized Lead, But Google+ is Growing Quick
The behemoth of the social networking scene Facebook has an early lead advantage when it comes to both users and demographic equality. The distribution of age when it comes to those who use Facebook is quite clearly evened out and follows similar patterns to what normal search demographics do this day in age. There is no one age group that dominates the user base on Facebook, and this is one advantage for the service which is positive for those looking to connect with people of various ages. But the chances that you will find those who you are looking for is also pretty good – making Facebook a good choice for reconnecting with old colleagues/friends/family through online means.
Google+, meanwhile, has been a service which has been seemingly catering to the younger student & technology crowd, as the statistics show. A larger portion of the user base on Google+ thus far has been males (at 69% currently) while females are making up a slimmer 31%. This is an interesting growth trend, as Facebook started its early years with a lopsided approach and was picked up by women much faster than men (read here).
Should the early demographics of Google+ steer you away from the service? Certainly not. The only thing you will suffer from, if anything, is a disappointment that all of your potential friends/family are not on the service yet. But remember, the bigger issue at hand here is the “chicken or the egg” quagmire. If you don’t jump into the service and begin using it, what reason would your friends and colleagues have to switch? It’s a tough decision to make, but I personally decided to make the foray in the hopes that more people move over from Facebook soon. Seeing that satisfaction with Facebook is reaching an all time high, it’s not hard to envision a shift away from the service in the near future.
Privacy A Fickle Issue for Facebook, but Google+ Tries a New Approach
Social networking is inherently a gaping hole when it comes to security. I don’t believe that any service will ever get it 100% right. Why? It’s simply the mindset of what social network stands for that runs contradictory to building a utopian society online with privacy as the foremost factor. Facebook has been battling criticism of its privacy techniques for years now, and Google+ has decided to put a new twist on how sharing of information is handled. While I agree with a lot of how Google has approached Google+, both services are susceptible to information leakage and inadvertent data dissemination.
To sum up how Facebook treats privacy, I’ll have to say that it’s possible to cap what you show those who you wish to restrict information from, but it’s a task in patience and page-hunting. To be fair to Facebook, they have recently implemented changes to how easy it is to ensure you are only sharing information in status updates and posts to those you wish to see it. Previously, it was a semi mystery as to whether everyone on your friends list saw what you were posting, and only by digging through menus within menus did you get at the settings which were important in plugging these holes. While this has gotten easier, due diligence is still needed when posting, for example, photos of yourself as sharing settings can easily be overlooked.
Google+ put the Facebook method on its head and introduced a system called “Circles” that uproots the notion of building a friends list from the top down, filtering after the fact. Google+ forces you to segregate different categories of friends, colleagues, family, etc to your own preference. This more closely resembles how we treat those we associate with in real life. You could have those you know at work which are merely associates but not friends, and family that you know which are not necessarily on the same level as friends but still important. Placing them in their own “circles” is a way to solve the problem that Facebook ran into with trying to get people to split their friends lists into “groups”. To be honest, even though I am completely aware of the ability to do this in Facebook, I have not yet taken the time to wade through all 200+ people to get them into their proper groups. To have to do so after the fact is laborious, painstaking, and time consuming – something a social networking tool shouldn’t be.
Google+ still has its downfalls, however. One way in which a friend on Facebook differs from a “connection” on Google+ is that you have the ability to determine if someone on Facebook actually CAN make a connection with you. Google+ has not placed any limits on this and actually allows anyone to add you to their “circles” which is a bit deceiving. Be mindful that the only way these people can see anything you post is if you share it to the “public” option when placing items on the service. Also, many people on Facebook enjoy using fake names to keep some anonymity. Google+ does not allow this and follows a strict protocol of checking to ensure that real names are used. Posing as a celebrity or using a made up name will get you kicked from the service. While this serves to ensure that no one feels empowered to say things they otherwise wouldn’t, the allure of using the service with a pseudonym is a disallowed possibility that may turn some off.
Who Has the Right Combination Of Pros?
The answer is up to you. Google+ and Facebook both offer a dynamic set of features and appeal to a different demographic of “netizen.” Facebook has an approach of treating all potential friend connections equally, while allowing you to filter them after the fact. Google+ takes the road of determining how you view a relationship with someone in real life and applying this characteristic to your online connection with the individual right away, via Circles. Likewise, Facebook has a more even distribution of the sexes and ages, while Google+ tends to have a younger, male centric crowd (for now, but this is changing).
I recommend you tune into the last few parts of this series before a decision is made so that you can have a rounded opinion of each service. The battle of the social networking giants continues forward!