Despite Google’s “innocent” entry into the realm of social networking at the end of June, it quickly became apparent that Google+ was a legitimate competitor for Facebook. Plus immediately received acclaim for its improved privacy and sharing controls (Circles), its video conferencing feature (Hangouts), and its group messaging service (Huddle). But Facebook has a big lead and an experienced team at the helm. It’s hardly a surprise that Facebook’s response has been to mimic the improvements introduced by Google+.
How exactly has Facebook been playing doppelganger? For one, Facebook recently announced a partnership with Skype to offer video chatting, a feature that – while not as extensive and open-ended as Google’s version – makes a clear tit-for-tat step against Google’s most praised element. Additionally, Facebook recently purchased a mobile group-messaging service, indicating that Facebook will be releasing its own “Huddle” in the not-so-distant future. Most recently, and most visibly, however, Facebook has released privacy controls that look surprisingly similar to those of Google+.
How similar? Bradley Horowitz, the VP of Google+, was interviewed the day of the release, and called the new features “Familiar.” He further stated, however, that he and his team at Google were excited to see Facebook making choices that improved user experience. That user experience has been improved in a few key ways:
- You will now see privacy controls in-line with your posts, images, and other content. For the time being, this determines if you’re showing the message to friends or the public, but Facebook also indicated that they would be integrating it with Facebook “groups” in the future.
- You will now be able to see your profile as others see it through a “view profile as” button found on your profile page.
- You will now be asked to review and approve all tags on messages, images, and other content prior to that content being posted to your profile. You can also request that the content be removed from Facebook entirely.
- You can now manipulate your privacy settings on posts after publication.
- It’s not easier to remove tags from posts and other content after publication.
Most users have responded by calling Facebook’s moves great ideas, while still acknowledging that they’re fairly obvious attempts to show up Google+. At the very least, it seems that Google+ is serving as a call to action for the long-ruling Facebook.
[Sources include: The Facebook Blog]