This Means War: Google Officially Enters the Battle for Social-Networking Dominance

This has been an eventful week in the world of social networking.

Rumor has it that Myspace is going on sale for a pitiful $30 million (after being purchased in 2006 for $580 million), and will experience a heavy wave of layoffs. And really, who’s surprised? A recent article entitled “Even Myspace’s Founders Have Stopped Using Myspace” says it all.

In a world ruled by Facebook, it’s difficult to remember that Myspace was once on the cutting edge as the premier social networking site. So why did it fail? In a conversation with Jimmy Fallon, Sean Parker explained why he believes Myspace so rapidly tumbled from grace. You remember Sean Parker; he founded Napster, participated in the early success of Facebook, is currently championing Spotify, and was played by fellow curly-head Justin Timberlake in The Social Network. Parker cited Myspace’s failure to evolve, asserting that if they had noted the innovations made by their competitors and “just copied Facebook rapidly, they would have been Facebook.” In other words, they would have maintained their position as a dominant and growing social network.

But they didn’t, and Facebook is king. After all, In 2010 Facebook claimed the title of the most visited site on the web, with 750 million members. Who could possibly topple them? Especially when Facebook will not make the same mistakes that Parker says Myspace made, in fact, they seem obsessed with evolution.

Perhaps, a little competition could come from Google, the company that owns the second most visited site (Google.com, of course) and the 5th most popular (Youtube). That is certainly their hope as they launch Google+, their new social networking site and their answer to Facebook’s surging popularity.

Glancing at images of the Google+ design, the site hardly seems to be revolutionary. It looks an awful lot like Facebook, actually. But this could be a strength, it means an easy transition for current Facebook users. Facebook has one major flaw; its privacy policies. Even hardcore Facebook addicts seem to be irritated by that pesky issue of privacy. To begin with, the settings and policy itself constantly change, and when these changes occur, it often seems to be the case that the user has to go through each setting to make sure that that embarrassing photo from two summers ago in Cancun didn’t suddenly become visible to Great Aunt Esther and their boss, or that a third party company isn’t privy to their information. The privacy policy is long, complicated, and difficult to decipher.

Google+ aims to exploit Facebook’s ongoing PR nightmare by introducing a privacy-policy which at least appears to be shorter and more easily understood, and by allowing users to separate their friends into different “circles,” or spheres (I could make it so my high school friends could see certain photos but my professional associates could not).  The same strategy of targeting Facebook is apparent in a feature called “Google Takeout,” which allows Google+ users to directly export data from the site, something Facebook discourages. This could be especially attractive to businesses wary of using Facebook because it locks in their data. How exactly Google’s grand design will work will probably not be clear until the site gains traction and we hear what users have to say. In the meantime, web-comic XKCD seems to have hit the nail on the head:

XCD.com Comic: Google+

Or, put another way, when I asked my coworker why anyone would switch from Facebook to Google+, when Google+ looks essentially the same, his vehement reply was “because it’s less evil!”

Even if Google+ is a way to have Facebook without the unwanted baggage, are there that many people furious enough with Facebook’s policies to really abandon the site in favor of Google+? I guess we’ll find out. Ultimately, all the buzz surrounding Google+ and the way the product has dealt with some of Facebook’s major problems will serve the consumer. Either Google+ will become successful because it is better than Facebook and offers more control to its members, or Facebook will be forced by Google+ to fix its greatest drawbacks. Either way, you and I win.

Curious about what others think of Google+? Check out this poll, and don’t forget to follow us on twitter @NECS_LLC

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