6 Things Google+ Can Do That Facebook Can't
Google's new social network Google+ is going head-to-head with the biggest social network of them all, Facebook.
But for Google's new platform to succeed in gaining social marketshare, it has to also entice users by letting them do new things, too, stuff they can't do in Facebook.
After the lackluster reception of Google Buzz and Wave, the Internet giant had to completely rethink its approach to online social interaction before announcing Google+. And it has. Google+, which is still in a trial phase and not yet open to all, steps back from the friend-accumulation game and instead considers how we, as social human creatures, already think about our friends. The outcome is cliques, or what Google is calling Circles. In real life, friends come in mini sub-groups, usually based on how we met.
Almost—but not all—of the new and exciting ideas that Google has germinating in Google+ come down to cliques, or friends grouping off into smaller subsets. That's a radical departure from Facebook, which does have some ability to put friends into different buckets, but not in a way that's central to the overall experience. From there, Google+'s innovation comes in the form of how these circles of friends interact: video, mobile group chats, sharing and discussing content only within a circle that has a shared interest, and so on. What has Google dreamed up that Facebook, after several years in the big leagues, hasn't? We found six big ideas that may very well rock the social networking boat.
1. Easily share photos, links, or posts with only select friends
One of Google+'s signature features is called Circles, which lets you create mini friends lists, or social circles, within your larger network. You can customize groups fairly easily, with drag-and-drop actions, to limit who can see what. When you share something, you share it to a circle or multiple circles.
In Facebook, you have a few options for limiting who can see what, but it's not nearly as easy to manage. First, the "limited profile" setting can restrict selected connections from seeing everything—they only see a limited amount. Second, you can create Friends Lists (although it's not drag-and-drop), to which you can apply privacy setting; but if you want to post to your wall and only make it visible to a specific people such as the people on your Friends List, you have to click the lock icon next to the post, click "customize," choose "specific people" from the drop-down list, and then remember name of the list you created.
Another way Facebook lets you restrict your circle of friends is with Facebook Groups, but that's treated more like a forum with admins rather than just a sub-set of your real-life friends. Facebook Groups do come in handy, though, when you want to meet new people, as not all groups are private; some are open for anyone to join.
2. Plan details of an event with live video chat
Google+ has a free, multi-user video chat feature called Hangouts—Facebook has nothing like this. Integrating the video chat right into a social network makes a lot of sense, especially when coupled with other Google products, like Calendar. If you're collaborating with friends to host a party, travel together, or create a project, the ability to hold a video chat right within the context of all the other information goes well beyond what Facebook can do with event-planning.
3. Watch a YouTube video in real-time with friends
Within Hangouts, you and your friends can watch and search for YouTube videos together as a group. And anyone in the hangout has access to the controls to play, pause, or search for a new video. When you start the video, the group chat mutes everyone by default (to minimize echoes), but there's a button labeled Push to Talk that overrides it. In Facebook, the closest you can come to watching videos with other people is to do it asynchronously, and discuss it with comments, which is a whole lot less lively than Google's solution. One note in Google+ is that you have to watch those YouTube clips in Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer.
4. Curate content based on your interests
Another new concept in Google's social network is that Google should do one thing it already does fairly well: point you toward content that you want to find and explore. Google calls this new element Sparks, and it leverages a lot of what Google already does, but with more of an entertainment angle.
In Facebook, you can become a fan of or "like" a product, place, service, or what have you, but you can't actually cultivate an interest. Sparks instead delivers articles, blogs, and other content from the entire web—not just from within the social network platform—based on terms that you enter. You can save terms and return to them at any time to browse new content, and you can add circles or individuals to an item to share it with them.
With Facebook, you don't so much save search terms as have them automatically scoured so that Facebook can bring up ads that it thinks are relevant (and to be fair, this happens in Gmail as well). You end up seeing a lot of ads that aren't applicable to you just because you once made an inane analogy about a mustache-bleaching kit.
5. Instantly upload photos and videos to the cloud, but decide later how to share them
Google+ mobile apps (coming soon), will have an auto-upload feature so that any photo or video you take on your phone using the app (rather than the phone's built-in camera) will automatically be uploaded to your account, ready to share. The content doesn’t go public right away, so you can decide later who will get to see it. The next time you log into Google from your desktop, a number in the status bar will show how many new uploads you have on deck, ready to share.
Uploading photos and videos this way removes the worry of making an embarrassing photo public to every person you're connected to (or in Facebook, anyone who can see your full profile). Currently, photos and videos in Google+ stay ready in the queue for only eight hours after upload.
Have you ever tried to delete your Facebook account? The option is so buried it's nearly impossible to find. Deactivating a Facebook account is slightly easier, but it doesn't actually remove your entire presence from Facebook. Friends can still invite you to events, tag you in photos, or ask you to join groups after your account is deactivated—you just won't know about it.
Google+ on the other hand lets people leave easily. Facebook has received a lot of flak for not being upfront with users about certain default privacy settings and the like, so it actually is rather important that users are able to easily delete their Google+ accounts. And like Facebook, Google+ lets you download all your data (photos, messages) so you won't lose anything if you quit.