Google’s new website has students questioning whether or not Facebook can stay on top of social networking

by oliviamiltner, ‘13

The evolution of online social networking is clear. It began with e-mail, then instant messaging and Myspace. Now, there are Facebook, Skype and Twitter, and recently, a new site: Google+.
Although they may seem similar, Facebook and Google+ have features that make each unique. Junior Greg Hickey said that along with organizational differences, the two have different views on confidentiality.
“I’d say that [Google+] does a better job with privacy,” Hickey said.
According to him, Google+ keeps more personal information private by default than Facebook does.
The website also introduces new features, such as streams and hangouts, which could be compared to Facebook threads or video-chat, respectively. According to junior Megan Steedman, these elements are positive additions to the site.
“My favorite part about Google+ is probably hangouts…It’s cool because you can have up to 10 people chatting at the same time,” Steedman said.
The recent changes to Facebook’s chat are another factor that could push Google+ to the top.
“I hate the way Facebook does chat now. Private message and chat should still be separated. [That was a] bad change,” Hickey said.
These modifications, although focused around keeping users, could have the reverse effect.
“I think maybe Google had realized that some people were leaving Facebook because of all of the changes, so they took control of the situation and tried to draw everyone toward its new feature,” Steedman said.
Although Hickey has not been using Google+ as long as Facebook, he believes it has definite potential.
“I think Google+ is off to a strong start, and with the backing support of Google’s creative teams it could be better than Facebook,” Hickey said.
Google+, which launched its Beta version June 28, 2011, had a promising start, with over 20 million people joining within the first two months. However, the number of users on Google+ is still dwarfed by those of Facebook, which has over 800 million active users, according to its website.
“I just checked who was in my ‘circles’ and I have 49 people in them. Not everyone has it right now, like Facebook, so it’s hard to have that many friends,” Steedman said.
On top of the immense number of people on Facebook, Google+ also has to compete with the recent modifications announced by founder Mark Zuckerburg, which are focused on keeping users active on the site.
“Facebook constantly changes up their website design in attempts to make it more user friendly, even though most of the time it ends up making many users complain. If they can stay on top of the game, such as the addition of video chat and the partnership with Skype, then Facebook might be able to keep up the edge,” Hickey said.
So, while Google+ has made an impact in the world of social networking, its future is still questionable.
“If Google can add the right kind of features and people find more of a use for it than Facebook, then it could really thrive. But I don’t think it could really do what Facebook did to Myspace,” Hickey said.