Soul of a Social Network

Unlike other hosting services where we can host our photos, music, data, or other things, hosting friends list ( on a social networks) is a bit different. Photos, Music, and Data are “objects”.  Friends are not objects. They are real people with emotions and thoughts. They can identify good from bad and have feelings about certain things or certain way of doing things. This makes hosting of friend list different than hosting any other “possessions”.

A social network not only has to provide competing services but also has to appear very genuine in its interaction with its users. It should give a perception of being an active “listener” and not causing “harm” to the social fabric. More importantly, it should not appear to be piling on the private information of people and profit from it. People, in general, understand that the Social Networking company has to make money to provide the service to them. But if they feel that the company is just bent upon extracting money off of their personal profiles, there would be a sense of disenchantment among the users.

Recent euphoria about G+ validates this theory. G+ seems to be more open than Facebook and for a large portion of users, it appears to be closer-to-heart than Facebook. It violates privacy almost as equally as Facebook does. But still people are happy to give it a pass. Difference being that G+ appears to be listening to what people are talking about. Hordes of Google Product managers + Engineers are openly soliciting feedback in public stream. I myself had a hangout experience with G+ product Managers where I shared my opinions and gave some inputs. Whether or not these suggestions are accepted is another thing…but atleast Google plus appears to be making an effort to be closer to people’s hearts. And thats what counts when you want to host their friends list and be a provider of their social fabric.

Soft Power of Google

Last few weeks were very hectic in the Social Media world. Google came out with Google plus, and then the tech bloggers started evaluating it. Overall theme: Google+ beats Facebook in the Look & Feel as well as in the Features, but it will be a steep climb for Google to fetch users from Facebook.

I would put things in a different perspective. Its not that Google will win this contest…its that Facebook might (or will) loose it.  Advanced usability features of Google plus will make a difference, but the biggest difference will be made by Facebook’s shortcomings.

Soft Power: Google vs Facebook

Google wields a huge soft-power over its bigger Social Networking rival. Analyzing the sentiments in blogs and comments, it is quite evident that there is a general sense of “enjoyment” or “happiness” in the tech community. It appears that people just want someone to pose a challenge to Facebook’s increasing dominance.

Maybe it is Facebook’s blatant breach of Privacy, its apathy towards developers, its philosophy that users revolt but eventually concede to the changes. Or maybe its Facebook’s open PR attempt to malign Google. Maybe people are just awestruck or a little bit envious by the meteoric rise of Facebook. I can not pin-point exactly what it is that people do not like about Facebook but it is still (and will remain for a long time) the biggest Social Network in the world.

Maybe people did not have a choice..and now that they feel that there might be an alternative to Facebook, they feel overjoyed. Its kindof like the Arab spring where people are joyous that they have an option to get an alternative rather than listen to a dictatorial regime.

Its not that Google is everything good and Facebook is everything evil. Google also breaches on People’s privacy quite openly. But most people do not feel “happy” or “over-joyous” over the success of bing (search engine from Microsoft).

So why are people so happy about Google Plus and not about bing? Difference is Google’s soft-power that has a comforting and soothing effect on people. Something that Facebook and Microsoft do not have in their DNA.