Saturday, August 13, 2011

What the Rise of Google+ Says About Facebook

When Google debuted its social network, this time for real, this time for really real, about six weeks ago, it was big news. Once Google+ arrived, many wondered whether or not a true Facebook rival was finally here. People focused on features, apps, APIs, and Google's potential to scale to measure whether this thing would ever be a real Facebook rival, or another dud, like Google Buzz.

While all those things are all important, there's another factor at work in the rise of Google+, which, by most measures, has been incredible. And that's Facebook. More specifically, the things about Facebook that annoy and frustrate its users. When PCMag put the question to readers, "Will you ditch Facebook for Google+," a whopping 50 percent said they would. Even if most of those who answered yes don't actually end up quitting Facebook, that statistic illustrates a general frustration with the service that's probably familiar to anyone who's on it.

Facebook has been annoying its users probably since its inception. Now, every piece of software has its problems. Some users of iPhoto might be annoyed that it doesn't have built-in integration with Snapfish. Twitter users may not like that a direct message looks almost identical to an @reply (Anthony Weiner certainly doesn't). That's normal. Facebook's issues go deeper, though. Facebook's integration into our lives is so personal, so far-reaching, that when it does something users don't like, irritation can quickly become outrage.

There have been numerous cases of Facebook making some kind of of change to its features, users responding with an uproar, and then Facebook proceeds to make the change anyway. A good example is friend lists, which were recently replaced with Groups. Facebook gave its users lists, noted that (after a while) only 5 percent of users actually used them, and then took them away.

"I know that they say only 5 percent of users really cared about that feature, but they cared about that feature a lot," says Paul Allen, founder of, Facebook app developer, and an self-described unofficial Google+ statistician. "In the end, everyone had to comply and go along with all the Facebook changes, some of them pretty radical, because they had no choice."

Unitl now, of course. There have been

other social networks

since Facebook came on the scene, sure, but Google+ is the only one that has the features, the scale, and—possibly most important—the buzz to be a real Facebook competitor.,2817,2391038,00.asp