Will Facebook be the last dominant social network? I’m not sure anyone really knows the answer to this. Only time will tell. Looking back at history, I can tell you that FB certainly wasn’t the first. Even before Mark Zuckerberg even got off the ground with there were already online social networks. LinkedIn and MySpace had more than a year on FB. How FB made these two sites obsolete will give us clues regarding how Google + will fair as a social network.
Facebook VS MySpace
When users starting migrating from MySpace to FB, my initial hypothesis was that it was a fad. Similarly to the migration from MSN to AIM, I thought these networks went through cyclical shifts. I figured that within a year we’d be messing with something else. What I now realize is that in the case of social networks, boredom alone won’t cause a mass migration. I figure that for a social network to fall there has to be a big upgrade waiting on the other side. Facebook was far superior to MySpace. Facebook’s interface was far superior. While MySpace was overcrowded, FB was beautifully minimalist.
This interface offered not only something different for users but was also simply a better interface (MySpace pages took forever to load). On top of that FB had game changing features. Features like the newsfeed and picture tagging put interaction on a whole new level. The real game changer though, was something as simple as a relationship status. This innovation basically hit the nail on the head as to why social networks exist in the first place. This feature while technically unimpressive was the greatest addition ever. So, can what happened to MySpace happen to FB.
Google +, Google Buzz, Google Wave (The Threepeat)
Based on the FB MySpace controversy, to beat a dominant social network you need user migration. To do this you need boredom and new features. I myself am quite bored with FB, and wouldn’t mind a change. Unfortunately I won’t be moving till my friends move. As such, boredom will only get the user base half way.
If Google + wants to beat FB it will have to do more than simply matching it. In its current condition Google + doesn’t even quite do that. In their defense, they have some interesting interface ideas with their privacy circles. Unfortunately I just don’t see any groundbreaking reason to change.
What Google needs for success in the social market is a game changer. I am not exactly sure Google has what I t takes to compete. Very rarely are companies able to find second acts. Microsoft and Apple found there’s with Office/Xbox and iPod respectively. Google has had a myriad of side projects over the years while trying to find their second act (Gmail is admittedly pretty cool). Just like Microsoft however, Google is suffering from classic old monopoly symptoms. They no longer know how to compete. Luckily for Google, they have a tremendous long fall to the bottom. Both Google and Microsoft can never innovate again and still make billions for years to come.
+ isn’t Google’s first attempt at competing with FB after all. Last year Google announced Buzz. Other than making headlines for some severe privacy violations Buzz was a non starter. Google even tried to gain an instant user base by integrating it with Gmail. Google went about Buzz completely the wrong way, and because of that Buzz was a failure.
Two and a half years ago, Google announced Wave, an innovation that would change the way we interact with computers; the less said about Wave the better. If things don’t go their way with +, will they simply call another redo?
My last point is that even if + does come out of beta with creative innovations over FB, will it make a difference? Just because certain conditions killed MySpace doesn’t mean the same for FB. FB is now a completely different animal then MySpace. FB now has over half a billion users. It is no longer the case of a bunch of kids getting bored and moving. It is fair to say that FB now has deep roots in our society. It is very well possible that no social network regardless of quality can best it. We will just have to wait and see.
Jonathan Rosen is a business major at Miami University. He is an avid fan of different media and how its covered. His website Call It Like I See It strives to be a source on info about entertainment and technology. You can read more from Jonathan at www.callitlikeiseeit.com