Saturday, September 17, 2011

And Google+ Takes an Astounding Hit!

Well, the battle between G+ and Facebook is heating up.  Google+ exploded onto the scene with some wonderful new features that instantly propelled it into the ring with heavyweight social networking champion Facebook.  Circles and meetup were desperately needed in a social world where people were limiting what they did on other social networks because of our own dual sided nature.  I only had social friends on Facebook and all my professional connections were on LinkedIn.  I only recently added twitter where I've been mostly posting from my professional life.  Everyone had this problem, so Google stepped up and presented an elegant solution: circles.
Now with G+ you could post something and choose which circle of friends would see that post.  You could put all your professional friends in one circle, your social friends in another, and even make a closer circle just consisting of family and close friends.  It was a stroke of genius on Google's part.  Facebook took a huge uppercut to the jaw right after the round started.
Facebook floundered, modified the chat interface, promised an HTML5 based iOS app, and make a couple other small changes.  But Facebook wasn't out of the game yet.
After all, Facebook still has apps, a huge amount of profile information, and much more daily activity than G+.
Then I woke up this morning and logged onto Facebook to see a notification that Facebook has upgraded the lists feature.  They've added smart lists (similar to smart lists in iTunes).  Facebook knows (from my profile information) where I went to school, where I live, and where I work.  So, they created some lists that automatically gather people with similar information on their profile into some automatically created lists: one for my high school, one for college, one for each place I've worked, and one for my current city of residence.  This was their answer to G+ circles.  Now when I post, I can choose which circle to post to.  Technically, this already existed, but now that my lists automatically update themselves, this is so much more valuable.
Not only do the lists automatically update themselves, but there were a couple of other enhancements that I discovered.
First, you can merge your previously painstakingly created lists into the automatic lists.  So, since I already had a list for my high school friends, a list for my college friends, etc., I could now merge them into the automatic lists.  This pared down my list count considerably.
Second, suggestions.  Facebook has a boat load of demographic information.  Now that I've got a list for my college friends, Facebook dove into that data and pulled out a fairly accurate list of people that probably should go on that list.  Roughly 75% of the suggestions it made for my family smart list were actually family.  Almost 90% of the friends it suggested for my college smart list did go to college with me.  I was able to place my mouse in one place and click the add button for each one of them in very quick order.
Third, profile updates.  Now that I've confirmed that a bunch of people went to college with me, Facebook made suggestions to them that they update their profile to include our college in their profile.  The same thing happened with work.  Shortly after I accepted one of the friend suggestions into one of my work smart lists, one of my friends added that company to their work experience.  Can we say feedback loop?
Fourth, local smart list modifications.  Facebook created a smart list based on the city where I said I live.  It included anyone who lives within 10 miles of that city.  Well, I live in Houston, so 10 miles covers only about 10% of the city.  I went in and modified the list.  I was brought to a map with a 10 radius circle on it.  I moved the slider on the bottom to include all of Houston.  This made my local smart list a lot more inclusive.

Awesome.  So, Facebook comes back in the second round to score a hit that may actually introduce Google+ to the canvas.  If the promised iOS app is as good as everyone says it will be, Facebook might get in the 1-2 punch that will mean siesta time for Google+.