Jul 14, 2011 12:00AM

Google vs Facebook

The quintessential first world problem.

It was only a matter of time.The blissful days of 'poking' (or removing pokes), 'liking' and shameless stalking of people you've never met could soon be coming to an abrupt and untimely end. Murmurs of the death of Facebook are abounding as Google unveil and promote Google+, their own version of a social networking website. Google+ is set to take over the cyber-social world and, by default, destroy Facebook. Is Mark Zuckerberg about to be dethroned as the King of Social Networking? Google certainly think so. He best watch his invaluable back.

Apart from the obvious reasons for this latest venture, including moneymaking prospects and out-maneuvering competitors in the perpetually infinite cyber arms race, Google exec Vic Gundotra believes Google+ fulfils a certain set of social responsibilities. Rectifying the perceived awkwardness and rigidity of current online social tools (which "force us into buckets or into being completely public") will enable more fluid online sharing. 'Circles', 'hangouts' and 'sparks' will be the new words on everyone's lips while Facebook lingo becomes a distant memory, like floppy disks and Internet Explorer. From what I can gather, Google+ places an emphasis on real life; it's all about instant mobile-to-web uploading, real time video chats with those in your 'circles' and making friends through common interests. It's like Facebook, Skype and instant messaging all in one. You can even italicise your posts! At first glance, Google+ doesn't seem quite as intuitive as Facebook, but perhaps that's the fault of the user (me) and their level of intuition (low).

How best to ensue a bloodless coup d'etat? Everyone knows the best way to avoid disappointment is to eliminate the privilege of choice; it would appear Google have taken this well and truly to heart. Currently, Google+ remains accessible by invite only. Invites can be "requested" by visiting the website. Eventually, everyone with a Google account will be phased in to the program. Google has launched several initiatives to enable a smooth transition from Facebook to Google+, including a service that conveniently conveys all the information from your existing profile (friends, interests etc) to your brand new (Google+) one. A brave, if not entirely subtle attempt at poaching users. And just how worried are the Facebook team? If the somewhat passive aggressive attempts to thwart Google's attempts at exporting information from existing profiles are anything to go by, they may be beginning to shift uncomfortably in their seats. Just how many of their 700 million users they will lose to Google is yet to be determined.

What it boils down to is openness to the change. I for one will be dragged kicking and screaming into the realm of Google social networking, exhibiting my overt distaste for forced alterations in firmly established patterns. It was only recently that I learned how to 'unfriend'. The prospect of ascertaining the workings of a whole new code for internet communication is frightening. The zealous, pre-teen Myspace users don't stand a chance. Above all, it will be interesting to see how this little take-over unfolds. Will Google's challenge to Facebook's hegemony culminate in an all out, bloody cyber war? Perhaps Zuckerberg will be brought out of his obscenely early retirement to restore peace.

plus.google.com/

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