A metaphorical boxing match between two 800-pound gorillas is quickly shaping up in the social network arena. In one corner: Facebook , the reigning champion. In the other corner: Google+ , a fast-rising up-and-comer with a big name and deep pockets behind it. At stake: the time-deprived attention of millions of social network users. There can be only one victor.
The more users a social network has, the more opportunities there are for its users to get gabby. No social media network in history reached 25 million users faster than Google+, which achieved the feat in its very first month despite being invite-only. It took Facebook three years to reach that total, but since then the service has grown like gangbusters and currently claims an utterly ridiculous 750 million users. Even your grandmother probably has a Facebook account.
Both services force users to sign up with their real names, a requirement we’re uncomfortable with. Facebook’s been plagued by privacy concerns for years now, and although changing your privacy settings is easy, its privacy options aren’t as robust as Google+’s. G+ not only includes more privacy options, it also lets you choose who can see each post you make and which portions of your profile are visible to the public.
Games are a major component of Facebook: More than half of all Facebook users play games, and Facebook’s game library spans approximately a gajillion titles. Games showed up late on Google+, but the dedicated games channel and the ability to post high scores are great touches. Google+’s initial games include blockbusters like Angry Birds and Dragon Age: Legends. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, there were only 16 Google+ games available.
Both networks offer free video chat services that are incredibly easy to use. Facebook’s Skype-powered video calling allows you to chat one-on-one with your friends and leave video messages if they aren’t online. But it can’t hold a candle to Google+’s Hangout, which supports up to 10 people in simultaneous video chat. Plus, it allows you to watch YouTube videos as a group.
Google+’s mobile app for iPhone and Android devices gets all the basics right, but its highlight is the Huddle feature, a group-chat function similar to the old AOL chat rooms. Facebook countered the threat with its new Mobile Messenger app, which expands upon the features in the standard app. Not only is Facebook’s feature set more robust, it’s also available for tons of devices—and it isn’t plagued by the bugs and crashes that are sometimes found on the Google+ app.
In three out of five rounds, Facebook triumphs over Google+. Sure, it may have some privacy concerns, and it doesn’t have quite as clean a look as Google+, but when it comes down to brass tacks, Facebook’s seniority shows in its deep user base and myriad options. There’s a lot to like in Google’s fledgling network, but Facebook just makes it easier to be social.