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Who Wins?

If Google+ survives or even wins the social networking war, it’ll be because of the ease in which it lets you organize your hundreds (or thousands) of online friends. Circles is really a killer feature, and it truly sets Google+ apart from Facebook.

Facebook’s killer feature, however, is its sheer size; with more than 750 million users, just about everyone you’d want to communicate with is there. Compare that to Google+’s 20 million or so users, and you see the clear advantage in critical mass that Facebook has. Because of all the connections you’ve already made (and all the content you’ve already supplied), Facebook is a difficult social network to leave.

All that said, I believe that the ultimate winner in the Google+ versus Facebook battle may depend on how people prefer to socialize online. Is Facebook’s chaotic, everything touches everything else approach more accessible, or will people prefer the cold and calculating organization offered by Google+? Do you want your social network to reflect the way life really is, or the way you’d like it to be?

Right now, I think it may be the former—if only because Facebook’s connected approach creates a true community environment that you don’t get from Google’s separated approach. Over the years, Facebook has built its site into an all-encompassing container for just about everything you can do online; for many people, Facebook functions more like an operating system than a website. This means you can go to Facebook and send messages, share photos, chat in real time, play games, you name it, without ever leaving the site. Many users keep Facebook open in their browsers 24/7.

As of yet, Google+ does not function in this fashion. It’s more a site you visit than one you live in. In fact, I really can’t envision users keeping Google+ open on their desktops the way they do with Facebook; there’s something about Facebook’s cluttered chaos that is actually warm and appealing. Google+’s cool organization isn’t near as welcoming.

That doesn’t mean Google+ won’t succeed in drawing users away from Facebook. I may be wrong, and there may be a large number of people who prefer how Google+ lets them organize their social communications and interactions. Certainly, Google+ offers the possibilities of integrating with Google’s other online services, which could be a real plus for many users. And, let’s face it, many of us are just burned out on Facebook; moving to Google+ is a chance to start over—in a more controlled fashion.

At this point, it’s difficult for me to recommend one social network over another. Right now, it’s still about where your friends are; if they’re not yet on Google+, it doesn’t matter how much you might like the new site, you have to stay with Facebook.

Still, as time goes by and more and more people check out Google+, we’ll see which approach to social networking more people prefer. While it would please my own obsessive-compulsive nature if the masses gravitated to Google+’s more-structured approach, I would not be surprised to see users stick with the more human interface offered by Facebook. Life is chaotic and cluttered, after all.

Michael Miller is a prolific and popular writer. He has written more than 100 non-fiction books over the past two decades, along with numerous articles and blog posts for a variety of websites. His best-selling books include Que’s Facebook for Grown-Ups, Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Computer Basics, Sams Teach Yourself TweetDeck in 10 Minutes, Windows 7 Your Way, and The Ultimate Web Marketing Guide. His upcoming book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Google+, will be released early 2012.

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