Friday, July 22, 2011

Is Facebook becoming obsolete?

If you think Facebook is "unsinkable" because it has more than 700 million members, both the Titanic and MySpace have lessons to offer. 

As recently as 2008, MySpace was the internet's biggest and most popular social media site.  The company was valued at US$ 12 billion at the time.

In June 2011 MySpace was sold for US$ 35 million.  MySpace was the fly.  Facebook was the windscreen.

It looks like history can repeat itself:

Google is in the process of slowly rolling out a new service called "Google plus" (Google+).  All indications are the superpower of the internet is about to make social media a lot more relevant and usable.

Instead of going after Facebook directly, Google is using its phenomenal power as search engine to plant a glancing blow on the Facebook chin.  A blow that might very well turn out to be the beginning of the end for Facebook.  At first glance the "blow" seems more like a girly slap with tissue paper rather than a Rocky you're going down punch.

It is a simple little +1 button.  A graphic button people can add to their sites and is shown in a list of Google search results.


Don't be fooled.  This aint no girly.  This is Google.

The little +1 button works like this: When you like a web site you click the +1 button on the site, or, if you see it in a list of search results, you click +1 next to it.  Exactly like the Facebook "like" button.

Boring? Can't blame the Facebook guys for snoring?

But.  Here a very clever plan comes together: by clicking that button, you tell Google you like that site and it should be moved up in your search results.  Just like an instant bookmark - Google will keep track of all the sites you like, so that, when you search for the same subject again, the most relevant ones will pop to the top.  You build your own "library" of the internet on the fly, with one single simple click at a time.  Your own version of the internet.


Cool, right?

But wait.   That's not all.  Not only will Google improve the rank of that site in your personal search results, it will also highlight that same site in all your online contact's (friends, acquaintances, colleagues, family, etc) search results.  You help them by showing them sites you think are good - when they are searching for it.

So what?

Then let's compare +1 with Facebook's "like":  When you "like" a site, it is published on your Facebook feed for all your fiends to see.  Cool.  Problem is, your geyser just developed a leak and you are looking for a plumber.  Two years ago, you can vaguely remember one of your Facebook "friends" liking a plumber's page, but that is gone in the grey mist of time...buried under a virtual Everest of constant status updates by everyone and his dog.  Gone.  Like it never happened.


Facebook's Achilles heel is that it has the "memory" of a teenager...about 15 seconds.  Everything is transient:  A torrent of never ending activity drowns out all but the present.

Now let's replay this scenario with Google+:  A friend finds a good plumber and clicks the +1 button on the site or on Google search results.  A link is placed in his feed, and, like Facebook it moves down the list as more updates are done.  BUT.  And this is the "Oh-oh!" moment for Facebook, when you conduct a search on Google two years later, the site that was +1'ed by yourself or a contact will now pop to the top of your search results - including a little picture of who +1'ed the site.


Web site recommendations when you need it, by people you trust.

Think about that a bit.

Are the Facebook fans pale yet?

No?

Ok, let's go on:  With your Google+ account you also set up a profile - much like Facebook, which also include profile pictures, photo's, and all the usual...including...your location.

So?

Google is now able to show you all the recommended plumbers (your own or those your contacts +1'ed), in your own area.  No need to contact a plumber in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.  Bham!  Your search results just became a whole lot more relevant - tailor made by yourself, your friends and where you live.
Social networks just became a whole lot more useful.


I cannot think of a business that will not be impacted by this.

The rest of Google plus, is much like Facebook with profiles, photo albums, status updates, news feeds, chats and so on.  The major difference is that it is much cleaner and neater.  There are no applications buying or selling virtual pigs, calculating your love score or predicting your future based on the letter count in your name.  Major plus in my opinion.

One of the big differences between Google+ and Facebook are how "friends" are handled.  In Facebook (having originated in a university) a friend relationship is reciprocal...both parties agree to the "friendship".  You can group friends ("contacts" is a better description) in lists, but the implementation of lists are not obvious and most people do not use them.

Google+ approaches the connections in your virtual life from a whole new angle: they use "circles".  Essentially you have circles like "friends", "family", "colleagues", "hiking-buddies", "idjits", "ex-bosses" and so on.  You can place a contact in one or more circle and you can make new circles yourself.

Whenever you make a post: ie status update, photo upload, etc, you decide which circle(s) will see the update...or everyone on the internet.


Separate your lives:

With Google+ it becomes simple to post about your professional, personal and public lives without getting the whole lot embarrassingly mixed up.  The best part of circles?  It is one-sided, so you can add a person to one of your circles without the other person's permission.  For instance, I am watching Larry Page's (Google's founder and CEO) Google+ public updates whether or not he damn well likes it.  Next time I have a few minutes and a glass of red wine in hand, I'll hunt down more interesting people to stalk: I'm thinking people like Bill Gates, Pamela Anderson and ...well...whoever blows your hair back.

Why is this a plus?  Because, like twitter, you can follow people or companies you are interested in for news, views or, if that's your thing, what's on the braai.

(Tip: add the Cozahost Helpdesk to one of your circles, you will see all the sites we +1'ed when you search...so you benefit from all the work we do to find valuable resources online.)

Larry,  you know, my buddy on Google+, said there are 10 million people on Google+ already.  The service is still in test phase and you can only join by invitation.  Pretty impressive.  I'll bet the Facebook guys have trouble sleeping round about now.


Start using it:

If you are a Cozahost client and would like an invite to join Google+, email us at the helpdesk with your domain name and we'll get you on the A-list and in the front seat to witness this historic event of Google+ taking it's first steps on a journey to change the internet - again.

As for the +1 button: we will be adding it to all our clients sites we manage immediately.  We suggest you do the same.

And finally, you can visit my Google+ profile here (pretty much still under construction) - stalkers are welcome if you are entertained by my not so humble point of view and esoteric +1's on the internet.

If you like this post, please hit the 1+ button below this line: you'll win the lotto, your nose won't fall off and you'll pay less taxes.   

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous23 July, 2011

    Thanks for explaining Google+ perfectly. Now my site has also been +1 ed

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous23 July, 2011

    Appreciate the relevant, easy to understand and interesting updates on IT stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That made a lot of sense even for a newbie like me. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  4. can google plus be added to seesmic ping? I don't find it as an option to post to

    ReplyDelete