Having enumerated what I see as some of the benefits and drawbacks of Google+, compared to Facebook, what do I think that it means for the future? There’s a lot of speculation, so I have to add my piece.
I think the upcoming Google+ vs. Facebook battle may be foreshadowed in our other current social phenomenon: Harry Potter. (Disclaimer: I just saw the final movie, so it may have influenced my thoughts). As the prophesy foretells for Harry and Voldemart in Book 5, “Neither can live while the other survives.” So does that make Facebook Voldemort and Google+ Harry Potter?
First, let’s address the counter-argument: that both can in fact endure (like Facebook and Twitter). Maybe each finds a niche – for example, Google+ as a more professional sharing site (for example, for journalists and professors) and Facebook for “what I’m up to today” status updates – maybe.
But this outcome seems as likely as Harry and Voldemort just admitting their differences and peacefully coexisting, with their supporters simply hanging out in different places. So, instead, what I think is more likely is there is a battle of sorts (much less dramatic and violent!), with people increasingly picking sides. Leaving aside the good vs. bad distinction, the analogy seems apt in other ways. Facebook, like Voldemort, has a lot of power and a lot of supporters (750 million!). It will be hard for Google+ to break into the entrenched structure that Facebook has built and maintained. And Facebook has little interest in extending the hand of friendship to Google+ – for example, rejecting user-created Google+ ads on their site.
Google+, conversely, like Harry, has a band of really devoted followers. I know several people (yes, ancedotal!) who love Google+ and are completely devoted to it – an enthusiasm that few Facebook fans can match, however much they use Facebook in their daily life. And their audience of early adopters is more likely to share this enthusiasm I see in my friends.
Part of this enthusiasm gap may be the perceived “credibility” of each source. Google is regarded relatively highly, whereas Facebook has been the target of much criticism, largely dealing with ongoing privacy concerns and legal battles about its creation. So if we have to go with some kind of “good-vs.-evil theme,” the advantage would probably go to Google – although I’ll be the first to admit the link is tenuous.
So will the analogy continue to hold? Will there be a couple of dark chapters before Google+ triumphs over Facebook? Does Facebook have critical weaknesses (horcruxes, if you will) for Google+ to exploit? This is only the beginning for this particular battle – and if the Harry Potter timeline is anything to go by, it will be a while before we reach the conclusion. So time to grab some popcorn!