Sunday, July 10, 2011

Google+ vs FaceBook

Like many people I’m more than a little fed up with FaceBook these days. I’m there for the same reasons that a lot of people are there. It’s the main Social Networking site going and most people I know are either there or are likely to appear there.

However, their recent changes are just bloating the software, slowing it down, and making it increasingly complex for the novice user.

I can manage without a problem because I’m a Web and Software Developer.Many of my friends can’t and the instructions to perform what should be simple tasks are often lengthy.

The software is becoming increasingly poorly designed and the absurd complexity and unpredictability where some of the features are concerned is an indication of that very poor design.

In addition, some of their policies are just downright silly, unenforceable in actual fact, and focused on appeasing some government bureaucrat somewhere rather than enhancing the user experience and protecting user rights.

One example is their rather arbitrary dictates on the names used. If your name happens to be the same as some famous person who also has an account you have a problem.

Another is the issue of User privacy.

Yes, I get the fact that the point of a social networking site is so that your friends can find you. Anyone who really is a friend is going to know your alias.

I also get the fact that the site should be able to identify who you really are so that people can’t abuse their accounts to harass others. That doesn’t mean you have to be findable and identifiable to the entire world. There’s no reason why one can’t identify themselves to Facebook while using a public alias and not identify themselves publicly on the Internet. If abuse occurs and a complaint is made Facebook would still know who to go after. And that is the real point.

Aside from the fact that actually identifying someone on the Internet is not really enforceable without implementing draconian, privacy violating policies in the first place and even then there’s no guarantee.

Now, along comes Google+ and it’s a pleasure to use.

Top Feature: The interface is clean, simple, clear and well-designed.

Most Valuable Feature: The social Circles concept and the completely separate streams for different Circles.

One just clicks on the Circle you are posting to from  your Streams Column and posts. Your post will automatically only be visible to that Stream. You can view the posts that way too. This is, and should be the default.

Let’s face it, do you really want your 7 year old nephew to read a graphic Wall Post on the horrors of Catholic Priests raping children?

On Google+ this shouldn’t happen because even if your friend has shared it to the world, your response is only going to display in your social Circle stream by default.

You can now add other Circles, make it visible to the world, share it by email, etc.

On the other hand, on Facebook, if a friend posts it and you respond in Comments it goes on your Wall and becomes available to your 7 year old nephew. Yes I have pointed this out to Facebook. They don’t care.

The Circles concept is something I suggested to FB a long time ago and was ignored. They recently implemented a way of doing it but again it’s not obvious and the user has to remember to share each and every Wall Post according to the stream. By default everything is displayed together and when you respond to a Wall post it’s visible to all of your friends and not just those in a particular group.

Adding yourself to Google+ using an alias also doesn’t appear to be a problem. I created one such account as a test case and it was accepted.

However, given the way that the Circles are being done, it isn’t necessary to use an alias, so I’ll just use that alias account to see the results of my tests while I’m familiarizing myself with Google+ and eventually delete it.

Even the Circles I create are private from anyone not in those Circles. So cool!

In short the FB interface for doing the same thing is confusing, bloated and difficult to understand and the consequences are not easily predictable.

Google+ is the exact opposite.

I’m looking forward to the day when I can get all of my friends off of Facebook and on to Google+.

And here’s the downside of Google+. There doesn’t appear to be an easy way to invite your Friends from Facebook en masse to join Google+. You need to extract their email addresses manually from their pages and invite them manually.

I suspect this is temporary and is only a problem because Google+ is still in Beta and wants to control the number of people joining for now.

Here’s a suggestion to Google though: Write a FaceBook App using the FB API which allows us to invite our FaceBook Friends automatically and en masse to join Google+. (Joking … sort of)

Oh, the irony …. ;-D
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