Google + vs Facebook: A comparison

By now, many have no doubt heard the buzz created by Google for Google +, their latest attempt at social networking. Google pulled out and dusted off the old “you need to be invited” marketing trick. It’s gone public but for now, you still need to be invited due to “insane demand” according to Google.

By now, many have no doubt heard the buzz created by Google for Google +,  their latest attempt at social networking. Google pulled out and dusted off the old “you need to be invited” marketing trick. It’s gone public but for now, you still need to be invited due to “insane demand” according to Google. This is not the first time Google has tried their hand at social networking. They failed with Google Buzz, Google Wave, and Google Orkut is only relevant in Brazil and India. Nobody knows how this venture will fair since Facebook has such a huge head start. Google certainly has their work cut out for them.

Here is a quick comparison of features based on limited testing. Your suggestions for additions are welcomed.

The first thing you’ll notice is that there is no import feature from Facebook. Of course, this cannot be accomplished without the cooperation of Facebook and no way Facebook is going to hand over the keys to their treasures. So if you already have a huge presence on Facebook, you’ll have to redo all of that on Google +. Just redoing the photos and videos will be a huge chore for some. If you want to invite all your Facebook friends in to your Google+ account, you’ll need to first export their emails. Facebook is not exactly giving in this respect but I have managed to find a way to scrape the friends using Yahoo Mail as a transport medium. For detailed directions, see this tutorial.

To get started adding your friends, it helps to already have them in Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or Hotmail as import from from those sources are supported. It’s a shame Google did not/could not get it to work the same with Facebook and Twitter as those are much more relevant sources for importing contacts.

There are several core components to Google +. They include Circles, Hangout, Instant Upload, Sparks and Huddle.

  • Circles is the most toted feature. It works like friends list on Facebook but takes a more center stage whereas Facebook hides in several layers deep. Things you do on Google + are Circle centric. Where Facebook wants you to share everything to everyone unless you tell it not to, Google + ask you who you want to share this particular photo or tidbit with upfront. In fact, Circles takes such a center stage that new users are prompted first to create Circles. Some common Circles such as family and friends are predefined. The names of your Circles are not public and known only to you.
  • Hangouts is group video chat. Requires a webcam additional plugins.
  • Instant Upload. This one confuses me. What’s the big deal about being able to upload something? It’s not like the rest of the Internet makes you wait to upload something. It’s all instant upload everywhere on the Internet.
  • Sparks is a prompt to tell Goggle + what kind of content to serve (spam) you. This one is also confusing. Facebook , Google, Amazon, and TIVO for that matter already does this based on your profile. I guess asking gives the users the impression they have some kind of control over what content they are presented with.
  • Huddle is group chat for mobile users only.

What’s missing: App, pages, connect with Google + login, Facebook connect features, events, and countless others too numerous to name.

Google +  Facebook
Circle/Friends list The very core of Google+. Easily drag and drop friends in to different circles. Ability to filter updates from various circles. The entire social experience is built around circles. Friends list is a little used afterthought. Most people don’t even know it exist or how to use them.All information, updates, photos are share with everyone (subject to default privacy settings) unless you assign or limit them to specific friends list.
Hangout Group video chat with up to 10 members. Once a hangout is created, updates go out to the member’s stream so invitations are passive. This may help Apple sell more iPhone and iPad 2. iChat and Skype is their biggest competitor. Going forward, this may end up being the killer app for a specific segment of the members. Not available on Facebook. On July 6, 2011, Facebook announced the integration of Skype with Facebook. Users will see a ‘call’ button allowing them to initiate a one to one video chat session. Group chat is not available. Some technical notes.
User interface Clean, intuitive, and sleek. UI designed by Andy Hertzfeld, the designer of Apple Macintosh GUI. A huge improvement over Myspace but as features got added, it became confusing and cluttered. Three column layout waste much of the real estate on the side bars.
Mobile user Android and iPhone app already out. iOS submitted to iTunes and should be out mid-July. Mobile browser version is fully functional./ Mobile browser version. No official Facebook iOS app. Plenty of third party mobile apps.
 Photos – high resolution?  According to this page, photos should be resized to 2048 but my test has shown them to resized to 640×400, at least for the display version. Other sources have reported images are resized to 900px if uploaded from anywhere except Picasa. Full resolution is retained in Picasa. Original resolution stored, 720 px version displayed
 Photos – EXIF intact  Retains some EXIF info  Stores all EXIF data but displays none
 Photos – Bulk caption edit?  No. Captions must must be added by going back into each photo after uploading. Yes, bulk captioning after uploading using thumbnails.
 Photo tagging  Yes. Must tag full size photo individually. Yes with feature to opt out. Ability to bulk tag multiple photos using thumbnails.
Photo tagging options By default, name tags added by people in your circles are automatically approved and visible to anyone who can view the photo. Name tags added by people outside of your circles, however, require your approval before the tag is linked to your profile, and the photo added to the ‘photos of you’ section on your profile. All or nothing approach. Users an allow or disallow photo tagging. If a previous photo tag has been removed, it cannot be re-tagged.
 Streams/Newsfeed viewing  Any content with new comments get pushed to the top even if they are weeks old. No option to reorder. Sorted by most recent or “top news” which is dictated by Facebook.
Export data Easily export your data using Data Liberation Download your data into a zip file.
Profile view as it appears to other Tool to view your profile as others would see it simply by entering their name. Preview profile by going to Account-Privacy Settings-Preview My Profile, and entering name.
Vanity url Not available Available
Check in Available on mobile version Available on mobile version
Post an item to a friend’s wall No. Post to another person’s wall by sharing something with that person only. Available
Ability to edit post or comments Edit option available for both post and comments. This may make for some interesting conversations if someone decides to edit their post to something entirely different after comments have been posted. No edit option. Only option to remove post or comment.
Animated GIFs allowed? Yes No
Auto tagging of friends if you mention them in a post. Mentions are done by prefixing the person’s name with + or @. An email address may also be used. Mentioned person may get a notification depending on their settings. Yes. Just type their name and they may get a notification depending on settings.
Receiving emails Disabled by default. Learn how to enable it. Enabled by default
Blocking someone Removes them from circles, prevents intereaction, hides non-public content. Blocking somone makes both invisible to each other on Facebook. Email history is preserved.
Nude content policy Nude content prohibited. Nude content prohibited. 
  • Yogi

    A good comparison of Google+ and Facebook, but I just wanted to point out a couple of things.

    First, the Instant Upload feature of Google+ is for your phone. When you install the Google+ app in Android, it asks it you want to use Instant Upload. It’s basically the same thing as in Windows Phone 7 where, when enabled, it automatically uploads any photos you take to their online service (Windows Live in WP7 and Google+ in Android). In both cases, the album where the photo is uploaded is private by default, but the pictures can be moved to a public location.

    Second, in your chart you say that in Facebook there is “no way to know how your profile appears to specific people.” This isn’t true. In Facebook, go to Privacy Settings -> View settings -> Preview My Profile. On that resulting page you can preview how your profile appears to a certain person.

    • Thanks for pointing those things out. Updated chart.

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