Just played around with Google Plus, Google’s new “Facebook killer” social network. On the surface it looks almost exactly like Facebook. They have a main stream or feed in the middle. It has navigation on the side like Facebook and even let’s me post different types of content, like photos, videos, and links – just link Facebook. I have to say, they are trying to solve the one problem that Facebook has failed to address really well – that is groups. Right now, with around 2000 friends, my Facebook is like my Twitter feed – a lot of noise. I know there is Facebook Groups, but it’s clunky and I don’t like to use it. Google has built a neat UI to segment people into groups like Friends, Family, and Acquaintances. They may well solve the groups problem and I commend them for that. However, if they think this is what is going to take down Facebook, they are wrong.
What’s going to kill Facebook in the end isn’t necessarily a better social network. It’s going to come out of left field and they won’t know what hit them. Here’s an example. If you were a very popular radio station in the 1940s, you were probably very worried about new radio stations popping up and becoming more popular. What they didn’t realize is that another radio station wasn’t going to be the end of their station. Televisions were just recently introduced at the time. At the end of 1946, only 44,000 homes had a TV set; by the end of 1949,there were 4.2 million TV homes. The reason people weren’t listening to your popular station wasn’t because they had found another popular station where all the cool kids were listening to. It was because they were spending their time watching broadcast television. When video games came out, kids spent less time watching television and more time playing games. When the internet came out, more people spent time online than watching TV and playing games (some people anyways). It’s like the guy who sold horses back in the 1900s worried that people are going to buy better and faster horses from another stable when he should really be worried about this little automotive company called Ford. My point is if Google is really serious about taking down Facebook, they should be thinking about fighting them on their turf on their rules.
There are so many new apps and services now other than Facebook that are all legitimately interesting. I myself have been spending less time on Facebook and more time on services like Instagram where all people can do is post interesting photos. I also spend more time playing with iPhone apps that aren’t necessarily even social. I agree with the Gigaom article that the way to beat Facebook is death by a thousand cuts. I’m sure people spend an unhealthy amount of time playing games like CityVille or Farmville – and even though that’s still within the Facebook ecosystem, those people are spending less time on Facebook proper because of it. There are only so many hours in the day and when the next big fun thing comes out – whatever that may be, that is what’s going to take attention away from Facebook, not another social network.
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