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26 September 2011

A fiery week in the social network world

Tim Gibbon, director Elemental By Tim Gibbon

It was an active week in the world of social networks mostly led it seems with Facebook and Google+ trying to kick each other into touch, possibly most active we’ve seen this year, so far.

They say that when it rains, it pours. It certainly seems to have been that kind of week within the world of social networks and the battle for user love. However, Facebook wasn’t the only social network with significant announcements, with Google leading last weeks updates. The technology company, most known for its search and advertising products released further updates to Google+ in seemingly another innovative move, that was not only seen as a reply to Facebook, but also Skype (now owned by Microsoft). That’s until f8 this Thursday, but more about Facebook later.


In opening up its new Google+ social network to beta (moving past restricted invites) means that rapid rise of Google’s new service could be further boosted as the shackles come off. Reported to have reached over 25 millions users, its video calling feature Hangouts (multiple video calling up to 10 people) has been made available for mobile. In a BBC interview Vic Gundotra, Google's senior vice president of social business explained how it can improve how people wish to share information, briefly discussed Hangouts for mobile and how they are focus on innovating on its Google+ own product (that’s 12 weeks old) and not compete with other social Diaspora Facebook Google+ image


Google piled on the social media news announcing that its +1 feature will be integrated into its Adsense online advertising product within the next month at the dismay of some search marketing professionals, but certainly signalled how the company intends to embrace more of the social web and how advertising is part of its equation.


Rachel covered how Facebook’s News Feeds were overhauled ahead of its f8 developer conference last Thursday, much to the disappointment and even anger of its users and has been illustrated by SodaHead’s Facebook Facelift: Like It or Lose It? infographic. Interestingly users were described as products by Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the beginning of the keynote presentation, so probably not the best approach given the social networks history with privacy and the constant complaints received over its updates. Even if it was a developer conference, you never know who’s watching, especially at a live event that reached over 100,000 viewers, so perhaps a fair few users and activists amongst that.


As Rachel blogged on Thursday night during Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote address at the f8 conference, Facebook’s eagerly anticipated announcement Timeline has kicked the social networking battle into overdrive. Google+ appeared to refine out what users didn’t like about Facebook, with is privacy, constant updates and usability cited as many of the main issues. Now, with Facebook’s newest and more significant announcement, it strives to allow users to collate and share more of the rich data users created. In doing so it hopes the content gleaned will attract brands to advertise and interact with users on a more social level boosted by a number of partners with more app driven products.


And, Google’s response? Well, nothing just yet, but 90+ days into a new product, possibly not enough time in this year to see it up the ante again via its Google+ social network.


Meanwhile, MySpace reached out via email to announce that it has a new homepage coming (again). It invited users to trial it boasting to be the largest library of free music on the web. Since its acquisition by Specific Media and celebrity Justin Timberlake, it’s the first major activity seen from the now self-styled music destination that for many was seen as powerful social network player that lost its way.


These announcements don’t stand alone either, currently lesser known social networks (Hibe, Diaspora and Posterous) have also been vocal with the first two beginning to open up its services to wider audiences on an invite basis only that we wrote about on the 09 September and 15 September. Posterous announced in late August how its Space feature gave its users more control over privacy (Posterous introduces spaces and Posterous fine-tuning), describing how its users can further control relations and communications – a theme representative in all of the aforementioned. It’s a very interesting observation given that could be argued that the above has made Facebook and Google think harder about privacy and how users manage their relationships, in particular the very vocal Diaspora.


See Diaspora is making a difference for its very public hat tip in what it sees as its product defining the direction of social networking products:


“There’s been big news in the social networking world recently, and we can’t help but be pleased with the impact our work has had on two of the biggest developments. We’re proud that Google+ imitated one of our core features, aspects, with their circles. And now Facebook is at last moving in the right direction with user control over privacy, a move spurred not just by Google+, but more fundamentally by you and tens of thousands of community members, as well as hundreds of thousands of people who’ve lined up to try Diaspora* — that is, by all of us who’ve stood up to say “there has to be a better way.” We’re making a difference already.”


At the time of writing this, an invite has arrived in our inbox so we’ll report back on signing up and first impressions of using Diaspora. In the meantime, for an update and how to join up, read the latest post from the Diaspora team.


With all the movement it may seem that privacy, not just apps, functionality and partnerships that providers create may ultimately be a contributory factor, if not the factor, in which the social network may stand taller than the rest. It will be the age old saying of only time will tell which may show how and why users will be prepared to give-up, sacrifice or embrace the social network of their choice which is intrinsically bound by their relationships they create and maintain beyond just their personal and career lives online.


Given how technology (not just social media) becomes more engrained into society, the way in which we live and communicate, you have to wonder where the entertainment versus privacy stand off between social networks will lead. We’re largely a society that now wants to share almost anything, anytime, anywhere, and in any way - the web has more than demonstrated this for many years. In such a content driven society and addictive environments it’s not a stretch to see how certain social networks will be appealing regardless of their approach to privacy and how comfortable users my be with that.


Other environments may have all the best intentions at heart, but will that be captivating enough for the masses?

Myspace new homepage coming email

MySpace new homepage coming email screenshot 

Categories: Technology, Social media, News, Marketing

Tags: Facebook, Google, Google+, Hibe.comdia, Diaspora, Posterous, MySpace, social networks, Specific Media, Hangouts, Posterous Spaces, privacy, online privacy

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