Sunday, July 10, 2011


i like facebook. i'm on it every day. it's a great time-waster and a lot of my social life now relies on the site (whether for keeping up to date with people, or because so many invites to live events are now through FB).  but the launch of a potentially serious competitor, google+, is also pretty appealing to me.

there's a lot of things to be annoyed about with FB. i posted this video as a joke, but there's some truth in it as well. FB revamps its site every 6-12 months. the revamps themselves don't bother me, but what does is that each time it happens FB resets your privacy settings to the most permissive setting. so after each revamp, i eventually learn about the setting change and then have to follow an unreasonably complicated series of steps to make it more private.

i also really don't like how FB tries to decide which information about my friends is worth showing me. a lot of people aren't even aware that FB defaults to only displaying the posts from your friends that you interact with the most. (to fix it, scroll down to the bottom of your news feed and hit the "edit options" button. next to the words "show posts from" select the "all your friends and pages" from the pull down menu. getting to the "edit options" button may be a little tricky and the current version of FB will add posts to your feed as you scroll down). even then, FB will try to pick the stuff it thinks you want to see the most as the default display option for your news feed is "top news." to see everything, you need to click on "most recent" from near the top of the page, and then reclick on it ever few days as it keeps defaulting back to "top news" automatically, no matter how often you make your preference clear.

in the broad scheme of things, that stuff is not a big deal. FB is a free service so i can't really complain, but it is really annoying. (okay, yes i can complain!)i suspect if you surveyed most FB users most would not prefer the defaults that the site imposes on us, and i bet most casual users have their settings set for those defaults without being aware of it. and even when you do know, it takes constant vigilance to keep fighting back against the defaults.

the main benefit of google+ is that it might end up being a less anti-privacy, less decide-for-me-what-i-want-to-see kind of site. if that becomes the main selling point, then that would both give google+ and advantage in its competition with FB and raising the possibility that the better site would supplant FB, or (probably more likely) get FB to copy the better features of G+, making FB a better site. G+ is already better at allowing you to control who sees the things you post by permitting you to restrict anything you put on the site to specific "circles". that's a major privacy improvement over FB in my mind (and addresses problem #3 from the video).

FB has a huge advantage in any competition with G+. social network sites are only useful if a lot of my friends are on them. a lot of my friends are already on FB, so right away it is by definition more useful than G+. until G+ somehow reaches a magic tipping point and gets everyone to dump FB as they once did friendster. but competition also has a down side. what i don't want is two social network sites with a critical mass of friends on both. the last thing i need are two major wastes of time to keep up with.