Friday, May 31, 2013

Why is Facebook special?

Hey guys, (I need to start making these into videos...)

It's been a long time since I sat down to write anything, but this has been bothering me more and more lately. I am hoping if I can get some comments (though readers and commenters on my blog will almost certainly unequivocally see it my way) to try to understand this phenomenon.

Basically, new technology and internet services are coming out all the time. Being the technology fanatic that I am, I am generally the first person signing up to try the latest features in Gmail, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Maps, Windows, etc. I want to try these things out before they're commonplace, to see if they really are going to make my life better. And yes, I realize that even though most people aren't like this, Facebook seems to be the one exception.

I'll give you the fact that most people HATE changes to Facebook, but people who are resistant to change will always be that way, even if that change is for the better. What I don't understand is why my generation (20 somethings) will always be reluctant to try anything that has changed on the internet since they started University. I can advocate all I want for the virtues of services like RSS, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, etc., etc., but nothing ever really takes like Facebook did (for me this happened around 2005-2006). Facebook's stranglehold on the "general" population as the go-to social network always makes my head spin, because it's not the first social network, it's not really the best social network. All I can think of is that it started off the simplest, (making the friction to signing up extremely low), but all the while giving people something they loved, but didn't know they needed. Facebook has now grown to fit over a billion people in it, and even your grandmother is on the network.

I understand (and perhaps this is the reason why Facebook is special) that most people can't be bothered to keep setting up accounts to new services, much less take the time to figure out how they work and what you can do with them. Still others have privacy concerns, although in my opinion those are overblown, and if you're using an open-source, public network, maybe the fact that you're giving them access to your private photos, and information you don't want people to know, was your first mistake.

Maybe my generation were just in the right place at the right time for Facebook to take off. Personally, I am a huge advocate of Google's services. I'm using one right now to write this blog, and any concerns I might have about privacy are public domain, as is everything I do on all social networks (at the very least if I'm sharing something privately, its just because other people wouldn't CARE to see what I'm saying). My Facebook page is completely public, though I do have a few groups to communicate with smaller subsets of people, but again this is only because it is related to a specific topic that people don't care about. I have actually gone so far as to allow any member of Facebook to specifically subscribe to my updates (something everyday users don't even know about), so that even though I use Facebook in a different way than everybody else (and I take offence to their use of the word "friends" to describe everybody you know, and also I really don't care about what many, many people have to say on the network), people can still see what I have to say, even if we're not friends. The average user requesting my friendship wouldn't even notice that I haven't accepted it unless they looked for it, as my updates start showing up on their news feed right away.

My Twitter account is public, and, as I've said before, I don't really get the point of a private Twitter feed, not to mention that it completely defeats the idea of Twitter (but you can use it however you want, which I guess is actually kind of awesome). Twitter, as with any social network, is only as useful as you make it, and it is extremely useful to me (feel free to ask me why).

Sorry, I got distracted. Back to Google. I love Google. I haven't made that a secret in any way. I use Gmail, Google Drive, Google+, Google Maps, Google Translate, Google Now, Google Chrome, YouTube, Google Calendar, Google Apps, Google App Engine, Blogger, etc. I love all of them, and while none are perfect, they are all very excellent services in their own way.

This is my constant struggle. The difference between Facebook and Google+ (and the whole suite of Google's services) is that Facebook started off as a plain Jane social network. The association that people make with Google+ is that it is a brazen attempt by Google to show up late to the party and steal all your data, to sell on the black market (tell me if I'm wrong that people think that). Google+ is a ghost town, you only know 3-4 people who have it, and they're all massive nerds who write blog posts about Google. What you fail to realize though, is that (again), a SOCIAL network is entirely what you make of it. Just as with Facebook, if you start to actually use Google+, you will see that it is really tying all of their services together. With the new Google Hangouts chat functionality, you can talk to people in ways that no other network comes close to matching, AND it is powered by Google, a company which bought the rights to the book on open communication. You can read that book for free on Google Books. Google+ is a vibrant community, where you can meet new people who share your interests, and still keep up with old friends all in the same place. It's also the fabric that holds all Google services together, and it's getting tighter and more connected every day. If you get a notification from Google+ that has my name in it, along with the word "circles" perhaps, don't be afraid, Google is not spamming you...that is just me poking you in the face, telling you that you should come check out this awesome place I've been hanging out in for 18 months. The water is just great, and I'll bring you a cool drink when you come. +Mike Attrell will be your butler, right Mike?