What Facebook taught me about Google+

When at first GOO fail, GOO try again, and again.You gotta give it to Google.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

When at first GOO fail, GOO try again, and again.

You gotta give it to Google. It had dabbled in the social media realm a couple of times to little success, pulling the plug on Wave and receiving unfavorable feedback on Buzz.

And while it kept trying, Facebook kept growing its user base which now clocks at over 750 million.

But, Google never stopped trying and it now seems that its latest social venture may have hit the jackpot. Google+ has been generating much buzz since its invite-only user trial launch last week, so much so that the company's senior vice president of engineering, Vic Gundotra, had to shut the invite platform down for a while due to "insane demand".

One week on, the Internet giant is looking to double the user base of its fledgling social platform, which some have estimated to currently stand at 1.7 million.

That's a far cry from Facebook's 750 million but industry watchers are taking notice of Google's latest stab at the social space, declaring the Facebook-Google battle finally on.

And G+ certainly seems to have plugged all the right holes. Its integration with Gmail means 193.3 million users worldwide potentially have immediate access to the social network and for a short while this week, the company allowed non-Gmail users to be invited, signaling its willingness to do so when the service is ready for the general public.

And with Google's range of product offerings which include its mammoth search engine, Google Apps, the Android platform and apps, as well as its Chrome desktop platform and browser and various cloud services, Google+'s potential reach and ability to integrate across the company's entire product ecosystem is mind boggling--and more importantly, something Facebook clearly lacks.

Personally, I like the granular control I get with Google+'s Circles, which allows users to categorize their friends into groups and choose the kind of content they want pushed to each individual cluster of friends. So, for example, I can make a comment on my wall and choose only to share it with friends in my "ZDNet Asia" circle.

This is the kind of control I, and many others I know, have found lacking in Facebook.

But, when I consider the amount of user data Google could collect via G+, and the potential to consolidate this with other data from all Google products and services the individual also uses, I've held back on the amount of personal data I'm willing to share on G+, just as I have on Facebook.

My primary concern is that while I'm now able to have granular control of my data on Google+, who's to say this will remain the case in future. After all, Facebook had changed its user privacy policy numerous times, making some data that weren't public before more easily accessible to the public.

It's a concern I've discussed before in this blog and one that Facebook users, privacy lobby groups and government officials have also taken issue with.

And while Google appears to be treading the privacy line carefully with G+, the Internet giant has already accumulated a string of incidents that have raised the eyebrows of privacy activists.

So, Facebook has taught me a valuable lesson about Google+, or any social network for that matter--that I should treat every piece of personal data I'm willing to share on a social network, with the same care I do when I'm sharing any information in the open Internet space.


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