One of the areas where Google set out to differentiate its social network from Facebook was privacy. It was a good idea — after all, Facebook had been taking constant hits over accusations of sharing-data with advertisers and making too much personal information visible to the world.
Who wins this one? Both companies are constantly in the news for privacy violations. If you define privacy as a lower likelihood of personal information accidentally being exposed publicly, then Google+ has the edge — entire websites are dedicated to the embarrassing personal details people accidentally make public on Facebook. If you define it to be protection of your personal data from commercial use, then both companies have a poor track record.
Ease of Use
Google also set out to keep Google+ simple and had the advantage of listening to Facebook users whine for years about complex and confusing settings. Google+ is more graphical instead of text-heavy, and it uses visual “circles” for setting up rules for sharing instead of Facebook’s lists.
The circle metaphor has resonated with users because it better represents how people socialize in real life (i.e., we move in different social circles). Sharing information via circles makes it easy for Google+ users to tailor what they share by audience. They can remain professional with professional contacts and loosen up with friends or family without worrying about posts or photos bombarding everyone.
Facebook’s Groups feature tries to do the same thing, but it’s less intuitive and by default, people ending up sharing everything with everyone.
Google has also done a good job of integrating features like group text and video chatting with its Hangout feature, and has the advantage of having a direct tie-in with its search engine (where Facebook users typically leave Facebook to search for items to share).
When it comes to games, Facebook is the clear-cut winner. Developers like Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) have made casual games such as Mafia Wars and Farmville Facebook staples. Yes, Google+ has games, but not nearly as many. On the other hand, Google+ is integrated as part of Google’s online application suite, including Gmail and Google Docs, which gives it a productivity advantage.
There’s a chicken/egg effect here that Google needs to overcome if it wants to boost gaming. Game developers want to see active users before committing to a platform, while players want to see compelling games before spending time playing them. Google+ has users, but they don’t spend much time gaming through the service.
Score this one for Facebook — if you’re a social media user who’s there for casual interaction with friends. But Google gets the nod if Google+ is being used for professional purposes.