Why Facebook never became the meeting place G+ has come to be

By | February 27, 2012
This is a reply to a comment started by +Jacques J.J. Soudan in one of +Max Huijgen 's posts.

Historical origin
I suspect facebook never became a place to meet people because the user interface, hints, and tools were designed to focus on connecting you with the communities and people you knew. That mentality stuck even as the network grew up. When G+ launched, networks for meeting strange people had already established (e.g. LinkedIn), and one of the big questions general users were facing is how to manage different groups of people (personal friends, colleagues, virtual discussion buddies, etc) in a single network. That set a different set of exploratory goals which early adopters tried to achieve, which contributes to the difference in percieved value.

Visionary leadership
I'm not a Google insider, so I can't claim to know what Google is planning with G+. But from what I do see, they have plans that go beyond 'being social' or 'beating facebook' – they seem to want to monetize by integrating G+ into search results. That means the nature of their interest is helping people find other people, in particular not just people they already know but also experts who they do not yet know and how and where to get in touch with them. That's a different focus than facebook's vision of bringing the world together. And that the clarity, or lack thereof, in the two visions reflects itself in the design and functionality of the two platforms.

Note: I'm not saying that G+ is good or Facebook is bad. I do think that both networks have their good and bad features – there are also features that work on Facebook much better than on G+, such as forum-like topical discussions. But I am saying that for purposes of discovering new people with similar interests, G+ is more successful, and that there's a directed reason for it's success.

9 thoughts on “Why Facebook never became the meeting place G+ has come to be

  1. Marc Razia

    FB is more social whereas G+ seems more aimed at content…at least in their current states. I think you can't overlook that regarding technology, anything you can do on FB you can do on G+, only G+ offers a lot more given its integrating with all the Google products.

    FB has popularity on its side, but that might not mean much a few years down the road since technology changes so fast. I'd rather have value on my side than popularity.

    I made a post about this recently that caught some traction for anyone interested:
    https://plus.google.com/u/1/114613911236813249666/posts/A9k2oNF5Vsw

    Sorry for the shameless plug, but its long enough that I'd have annoyed you even more posting it as a comment.

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  2. Jason Gokei

    There feels to be a well blended balance on G+ of the social of face book and the more professional atmosphere of linkedIn.
    I loved that LI is targeted at professionals, and a more educated audience, but there is a major lack of socializing on LI. at least in comparison. I very much enjoy having the ability on G+ to target specific groups of people for interaction, as well as limit interaction with groups whom may not be applicable to a given subject matter etc.

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  3. John Despujols

    +Sophie Wrobel , No, I am not sure… But they clearly monitor your requests and whether or not you send them to people who already know other people in your network. Sending requests to people you meet through common interests alone or from say people you know on linkedin may get you blocked from sending further requests to anyone for a period of time.

    I bet there is more to the 150 -200 number.. . My guess is that it may be the average but that there are valid reasons for having a few people on both sides of the long tails which could have considerable more or less than that their optimal number. And that those people would play a critical role to an overall group's health and how ideas and connections get made.

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  4. Sophie Wrobel

    +Jacques J.J. Soudan re your first point: my theory is that it is the maturity level of the adopter community at the point of launch that led to the resulting interaction type and depth. People are familiar with interaction now in a way that wasn't there when facebook started. It's just a theory though, I have no way to go back in time to test.

    +John Despujols Any idea what that limit might be, and what restrictions are currently in place? I know that psychology suggests 150-200 people is the optimal 'tight network', but not sure what concrete measures to channel interaction (and numerical limits) are currently in place.

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  5. John Despujols

    Facebook actually blocks you from sending friend requests. Somehow that is "spam" to them; but, anyone else can send you all the Hidden Chronicle requests that they want. Facebook decides how many friends any one person should have. They are trying to social engineer optimal interactions which they believe will keep everyone engaged.

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  6. Jacques J.J. Soudan

    Hi +Sophie Wrobel – great that you followed up, taking time (and thinking) – isn't G+ 'different'? 🙂

    When I first got into G+, my initial impression was: "80% Facebook, 20% innovation (circles, mainly)" – technically there was (is) not much difference: profiles, a stream/wall, people comment. So, the platforms, at a functional level, do not differ that much.

    Yet, here decent, interesting discussions ensue – interaction, engagement. Not so on FB (a few exceptions). And, surprisingly, many people here on G+ with the same sentiment: FB doesn't bring them the interaction and 'intellectual stimulation' they are looking for – yet on G+ you can find it all around. Or, you start something yourself.

    So…. two similar platforms, the same people, yet a completely different experience. Now I agree: G+ was new, so you had to connect with strangers (as opposed to friends and family, as on FB), but I had hardly any friends nor family on FB – does that mean that people don't want to connect with me on FB because they have enough 'friends' already – yet here they need to, as their friends don't want to follow them to G+?
    But then, why do I see serious contributions here that I didn't see on FB? My way of interacting has not changed much, I'm the same person, I want the same thing out of a social network…. so, I engaged on FB, I posted, I commented, I linked, I joined groups… And nothing much happened – at all. And even if people did engage, it was limited to that one interaction: no friending, no follow up discussion etc.

    Anyway, maybe I'm just too analytical (as INTP), but the question remains – other than that, it is not 'essential' – just interesting to understand how online social interaction works…

    And as for your second point: yes, Google and G+ have a massive advantage over FB: they can tie together your complete online life (even private and professional). And, Google is already making money with their ads – FB makes a lot less and I wonder how they will ever expand on that – even if they remain several times larger when it comes to memberships.

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  7. Jeremy Foote

    Very insightful. I think that you are right – Google is not building a "social network" – they are thinking about what it means to integrate networks of people together with networks of content.

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  8. Sophie Wrobel

    +Jason M. Gokei I'd think the spammers in both are equally stupid. But more seriously: the percieved intellect is the intellect of the community leaders in your network in each of the platforms respectively. There are a lot of not-so-smart people in both networks, the only difference is how the platforms allow you to filter out noise.

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