Humans first, technology second. Why Facebook will win.

Humans first, technology second. Why Facebook will win.

Summary: Facebook's understanding of what strikes an emotional chord with people will keep them ahead. Can Google learn how to do this or will this reinforce their heavily discussed inability to be a real competitor in social?

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Here's a old video from 1997 where Steve Jobs is responding to complaint from the audience. At about 1:50 in, he makes the most important statement about technology and innovation if it is to successfully find its way into the hearts of its users. (Thanks Stephen Chapman for sharing!)

After the launch of Timeline, it was made perfectly clear that Facebook knows that the golden nugget of marketing is an amazing story that resonates with other humans. Their biggest announcement at f8 demonstrates that they understand this better than most. Make the personal human experience amazing and the business opportunities will fall into place because you already have the people. It also clearly shows the difference between the way Facebook and Google create new products. When it comes to a deeper, richer experience, Facebook has it. Facebook makes things feel good. Google makes things efficient.

Why Google's only competition will be itself

Google is a tech company made up of brilliant engineers and scientists. It's more like a giant company comprised of inventors. They build amazing ideas all the time but the problem is that they seem to start with technology first and then they try to sell it to the humans after the fact. When you build stuff for humans, Google should be taking a cue from Apple. If you want to build something that humans will naturally gravitate towards then you start with people's wants/needs/desires and you build technology around that. Google is and will always be about data and innovative technology. They were founded on it. They are the masters at it. They had one of the biggest technology IPO's in Silicon Valley because of it. They may be sitting on top of some of the most amazing human behavioral pattern data sets with regards to search queries, advertising, email use and video consumption habits (thanks to YouTube), but those are used to serve technology advancement and innovation on their end, not really to build personal relationships across a digital landscape in a way that is more sentimental than it is functional.

Facebook is the opposite.

Facebook isn't trying to be the expert in online music consumption. They don't want to run their own video rental service from scratch or be the experts at video content delivery, etc. They're choosing to partner with and leverage the brand equity and third-party technology of other brands that are already experts in these specific space. This makes the integration and value proposition SO easy for them. Google tries to claim things as their own - Google Books, Google Maps, Google Music et al. Even though YouTube and Picasa are the exceptions there and Google Maps/Earth are a big hit, they're still either functional in nature or are more of a 'wow' factor as in, "wow, Google Earth is really cool!" There is value for a big brand to claim something as their own but more often than not, you have to be the first out of the gate to pull that off. In Google's case, by not partnering with brands the way they did with YouTube (which was in reality an acquisition, but at the surface of the user experience, it feels more like a partnership), they are going to struggle.

Look what happens when Google comes up with great ideas. Facebook steals them and makes them their own. Facebook users don't care where the idea came from. In fact they are stoked! Now instead of signing up for Google+, rebuilding an entire online profile from scratch, learning a new thought process, reconnecting with people yet again, waiting for the rest of the world to adopt a new platform, they get to enjoy more great features (thanks to Google), keep their profiles, friends and the same old website that they are familiar with already. It's a lose-lose for Google+ because Google will help Facebook innovate, doing tons of the R&D for them. Google will release a new feature in Google+. If it takes off, Facebook will add the successful feature to their user experience, if it fails, they'll ignore it and take note. All of this on Google's R&D dime, blood sweat and tears.

You can't sell a social platform on features alone, even if you are the biggest name in email and search. :-)

Also check out...

Facebook Timeline: Personalization without all the mess

Facebook is finally getting redesigns right with Timeline

Topics: Google, Social Enterprise

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54 comments
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  • RE: Humans first, technology second. Why Facebook will win.

    Facebook is incredibly obnoxious to humans.
    tomonroad
    • FB privacy violations are inhumane

      FB privacy violations are inhumane.
      Professor8
  • I went back to Facebook after a month of not using it

    And suddenly I see a UI that is a giant mess. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of organization.

    That is suppose to win? That should be the thing that I want?
    Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: Humans first, technology second. Why Facebook will win.

      @Michael Alan Goff - Thanks for the post. I agree that the latest and ehem, greatest, UI needs a little bit of work. There's a little too much 'fly-out' menu going on where the same content overlaps in a few different spots. For this blog post, I was more speaking about the approach to developing products.
      Rich Harris
      • RE: Humans first, technology second. Why Facebook will win.

        Ah, the approach does seem to have a lot of really good ideas. In that way, you might have something. The thing that really makes the difference, at least to me, is the implementation.

        Maybe Facebook will get it right.

        I hope that the competition with Google won't do the worst thing, and just have them tack on more features without putting the people first.

        I have said this to a lot of the people talking about another subject. It isn't the features, it's how you do them.

        In the end, I hope neither win. The more they compete, the better.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Humans first, technology second. Why Facebook will win.

        @Rich Harris - Sure the UI needs work, so does the way they implement new features. It's the "in your face" approach of dropping users into something new that tells me it is NOT "humans first", but it's "Facebook first", users "maybe third".
        gdanen@...
      • RE: Humans first, technology second. Why Facebook will win.

        @Rich Harris A little bit of work? The UI problems alone have sent people to Google+. I work as a small town tech support, and honestly, I've gotten calls lately from people wanting me to 'fix' Facebook for them.
        sehamon
    • RE: Humans first, technology second. Why Facebook will win.

      @Michael Alan Goff

      And, that is precisely why I disagree with Rich's comparison of Facebook and Apple. Jobs is fanatical about UI; Facebook acts as if they don't give a crap. Examples: until last week, updates were limited to 420 characters ??? <b>but</b> Facebook provided no feedback about how many you had used up (a simple Javascript can do this). And, you still can't edit an update after it's been posted; the best you can do is copy, delete, paste, then edit. What sort of consideration is that for human beings?

      I do agree, however (especially with some of the new features that have been announced), that Facebook is doing a much better job than Google of making money from links with other services ??? which is attractive because they have so many users. But, G+ has only been out 3 months, and only accessible without invitation for a week, so this may change as the G+ user base grows. Both should improve by stealing each other's ideas; that's fine with me, as long as the G+ UI doesn't turn into the chaotic mess that is Facebook.

      There is room in the social media environment for both Facebook and Google+, and I know which one I plan to use the most.
      S_Deemer
      • RE: Humans first, technology second. Why Facebook will win.

        @S_Deemer You are exactly right
        sackbut
  • RE: Humans first, technology second. Why Facebook will win.

    I think this is a very good point, and you may be right. Even so, as a Facebook user who has never been very impressed with the Facebook experience, but felt resigned to it like so many others, because it seemed there were no viable alternatives... I am trying to start a movement to get a large number of Facebook users to switch to Google+ for one full week, simultaneously - just to see what would happen. I'm calling it TOGGLE (The October Google+ Group Launch Experiment)
    philellis1
    • RE: Humans first, technology second. Why Facebook will win.

      @philellis1 - Interesting! I'd love to know how that goes. That might be a great way to test out how active G+ can get.
      Rich Harris
    • RE: Humans first, technology second. Why Facebook will win.

      @philellis1 You cant switch to Google + as dead in the water and not accessible in New Zealand. Google + promised great things but never became a platform users could use in New Zealand at least. Maybe they have blocked this country off but each you try and log in says still in testing stage so what is the good of that. I think Google + sucks because of this.
      twinjenz@...
      • Pay Attention

        @twinjenz@... Did you not read that Google+ was in a field test, and that you had to be invited. The only way anyone, New Zealand or not, could get in was to get an e-mail from someone already using the service.
        sehamon
    • Google + sucks

      @philellis1 You cant switch to Google + as dead in the water and not accessible in New Zealand. Google + promised great things but never became a platform users could use in New Zealand at least. Maybe they have blocked this country off but each you try and log in says still in testing stage so what is the good of that. I think Google + sucks because of this.
      twinjenz@...
  • RE: Humans first, technology second. Why Facebook will win.

    I think Google risk looking very foolish here if Facebook win (which I think they will). Wave and Buzz were allowed to fail quietly because they were complete failures...most people weren't even aware of them so it caused no real lasting damage to the Brand. G+ however has been promoted heavily, so much that its reached the level where normal people actually know what it is. Its good for Google initially with more chance of success...but if it fails it'll fail much harder than anything else they've ever done. It'll damage the brand and only further strengthen Facebook's appeal to advertisers. It'll also ward off anyone wanting to create their own social network in opposition to Facebook...i think the idea of working with people to create their own apps and be part of Facebook is inspired, all your potential competitors become friends. Google is left out in the cold.
    sophiedysonyeah
  • Start With The Customer Experience And Work Backwards To The Technology

    Very worthwhile words from Mr Jobs. His I-devices have embodied them to an amazing extent. But the weakness lies in the part of the principle he <I>didn't</I> state: that in Apple's case, the customer must serve the business model, not the other way round.

    This is the vulnerability that the rival open platforms are exploiting. Because unlike Apple, they put the customer in control.
    ldo17
    • RE: Humans first, technology second. Why Facebook will win.

      @ldo17
      "the customer must serve the business model, not the other way round"

      Ignoring the fact that this article has nothing to do with apple, it's a two way relationship. The customer must serve the business model and the business model must serve the customer. It's not a OR, it's an AND. Without customer serving the business model (ie helping the business make money, the business goes bankrupt) and without the business model serving customers, the customers leave and the business will also go bankrupt.
      anono
  • Google+ and Facebook - why see it as a competition?

    The one thing I've always loved about Google is that they're great leaders in the field of free... free access to awesome technologies. I really don't agree there's anything sinister in their 'naming of things' like Google Maps, Google Documents, Google Calendar, Google Plus, it's a simple way to identify a family. We all have family names. Many of my friends on Facebook are now also on Google+ and while Facebook's sometimes unwieldy, it has some sweet social features, as does Google+. I think Facebook succeeds because it was first and many people have high brand loyalty. Google+ will succeed for the same reasons and their very human accomplishment of not being afraid to try new things, even if some fail... only good can come of that thinking.
    AmandaRisi
  • RE: Humans first, technology second. Why Facebook will win.

    "Humans first, technology second. "

    Actually, it's "biased philosophy first, humans last" with Facebook. Zuckerberg picks and chooses only the research that agrees with his personal belief that everything should be public.

    Facebook in no way, shape, or form puts humans "first" or even in the top ten. It's all about placing a megaphone on your mouth, like it or not.
    CobraA1
    • RE: Humans first, technology second. Why Facebook will win.

      @CobraA1 - Thanks for posting. When I say 'humans first' I was only talking about what to base product development on, ethics are a whole other story. :-)
      Rich Harris