Saturday, July 30, 2011

Friend vs. Follow

Now that we are getting to the end of the honeymoon stage with Google+ .... and we have a few weeks under our belt using the service.... I wanted to talk a little about how G+ will be different from Facebook.

First and foremost.... G+ is nothing like Facebook. This is not a good or a bad statement - I am just trying to get any notion out of your head that the two services will have any similarity. Or if you are asking "Do I use Facebook or G+???" - the answer is most likely both.

When people ask me "How is it different?" - the answer is actually is simple - Friend vs. Follow.

On Facebook, the currency is "Friends". You have the ability to ask someone to be your friend, ability to invite friends, and you have the ability to deny friends. It is a pro-active system that connects people based on both agreeing to be connected.


1. John sends a friend request to Mary
2. Mary receives friend request. Decides to "accept" or "ignore"
3. Mary accepts friend request
4. John and Mary are now friends (connected on FB)

On Google+ ... is it different. There is no "friend request" - there is only "follow". On G+ it is driven more by who you want to follow (or put in your circles). Instead of having a double opt-in friend request transaction - the concept of "following" someone is a one-way relationship.


1. John finds Mary on Google+
2. John adds Mary to his circle "Friends"
3. John now gets updates on Mary
4. Mary will be notified John is "following" her - but no further action is needed.

This may not seem like a huge difference (especially if on Google+ John follows Mary, and Mary follows John) - but it actually is a HUGE difference because this is the context in how the network will grow and form to be completely different than Facebook.

Here are some reasons:

1. Abuse. There is really no way to abuse G+ like you can with Facebook. People send me friend requests all the time (even though they may not be my friends) - and in most cases I accept their request, because I am open to meeting new people and also because it adds to my social influence on Facebook (you see, even I am abusing Facebook). So why is this abuse??? Because it goes against the basic fundamentals of Facebook's origin - which is "Only accept Friend requests from real Friends" --- this principle is what keeps the value of the network high, and reduces the noise (e.g. SPAM) from your feed.  And simply having the ability to blindly invite hundreds of people to be your friend, and getting most of them to blindly accept creates an environment of abuse, spam and clutter - which ultimately reduces the value and fun of the Facebook experience.

2. More Real (and Real-Time). There is something about the context of G+ that makes it seem more real. It could be that we are early in it's life cycle and there are fewer users - but I am not sure that is a factor anyway. Don't get me wrong I think Facebook has a lot of "real" going on.... but it's different. I think the Message is the Medium when it comes to Facebook. More and more messages (posts) I see on Facebook strike me like "shouts" and not really anchored in any personal thought or intelligence. On Google+ - the posts seem much more thought out, reflective and real. Even from the "celebrities of Google+" like Tom from MySpace, or Robert Scoble, Guy Kawasaki, etc --- their posts are more personal - and a little quirky (which is a true sign of real).

Here is a good example. Arianna Huffington (founder of Huffington Post). She has a Page on Facebook, and a profile on G+. I can follow both.  But look at how different they are:

This is her Facebook Page. It looks "corporate" and the feed (although it may be her posting, but I doubt it) - seems more forced... than real (and more importantly real-time).

Here is her latest post on G+

As you can see - its from her phone - you feel like your seeing news through her eyes, and it is more real-time.

This is the result of G+ choosing to be more like TWITTER in how they setup relationships - but leveraging a social graph to help people organize their relationships better than TWITTER.

3. Because it's Google.  The third major reason I think G+ will be completely different than Facebook, is because it's Google who is doing it. There is a huge advantage when you innovate new products, if you don't have to "sell out" to pay the bills. Google already has a money-making machine, and doesn't need to force their social network to be something it's not - just to find sources of revenue.  Everything beautiful in this world is created where money is not a driver. This is a huge advantage as they continue to build out the service, and something Facebook does not have the luxury for too much longer.

Let me know how you guys use G+ different than Facebook.


1 comment:

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