Who’s going to win? Facebook or Google+?

After deactivating my Facebook account about a week ago, I started using Google’s relatively new social networking system, Google+. I’ve also been thinking about which social network will win out the most users in the long run. Several of my friends have already signed up for Google+, but Facebook still looks healthy and strong despite recent allegations about how they deal with user privacy. First off, a little bit of history behind these companies:

Google’s attempts at social networking

Google+ is not the company’s first attempt at social networking integration. Earlier in 2009 or so, the company launched Google Buzz, which could be accessed through a special tab in Gmail. It resembled Twitter in a fashion, but the commenting system gave it more of a Facebook feel. Despite the initial hype, the social networking platform fell flat on its face, and now the company is permanently discontinuing it. Another one of Google’s notable social networking products is Orkut, which, strangely, is very popular among Brazilians while in the rest of the world it seems that nobody has even heard of it.

But what about Facebook?

Facebook started off completely differently. No big company was involved in its creation; in fact, Harvard dropout Mark Zuckerburg created it from his Harvard dorm room. The site, originally called “The Facebook,” was intended for college students, but after seeing its popularity, Zuckerburg expanded it to the general public. Lately though, the social network has suffered from various lawsuits regarding user privacy, and even a movement aimed at getting users to deactivate their Facebook. Still, Facebook continues to grow at an astounding rate. At last count, 800 million users were registered, and the social networking giant continues to grow at an average of 3.5% per month.

So who’s going to win?

Google+ was released to the public with rave reviews. Some called it “a social networking revolution”, with its novel Circles feature allowing you to share content with only select groups of people. This attempt by Google seems much more formidable than some previous attempts, and looks on track to be the next big social networking platform. However, it is advisable to take this optimism with a grain of salt. Buzz was hailed as a “revolution”, but came tumbling down.

Facebook is still growing, and thankfully, they’ve implemented new features to help users manage what others see. Overall, they’ve done a good job of handling the lawsuits. The site has also been adding new features such as a chat sidebar, live updates of friends’ activities, and now a Timeline, to mixed reviews.

Yet, in the end, only one of these platforms will become the Alpha Dog while the other sinks into obscurity. I believe that the freshness of Google+ will give it a huge initial surge in users. Besides, Google has long held its standing as the top search engine, and the integration of a social platform will bring many users. It seems that, for this war, Google+ will become the ultimate victor as Facebook sinks deeper into the privacy lawsuits.

Google Maps search suggestions suck.

Google Search suggestions are supposed to help you search faster, not clutter your space with a bunch of irrelevant search terms. While suggestions have worked well for Google Search and Google Image Search, they have proved a complete failure with Google Maps.

First of all, people already know what they’re looking for when they go to maps.google.com, especially if they’re trying to find a specific address. However, the suggestions just have to get in the way and display five totally irrelevant suggestions. I could imagine how suggestions would be useful when searching for a business like “pizza near chicago il”, but that’s one of the few times it’s only slightly useful.

So, Dear Google, please turn off Google Maps search suggestions. Thanks.

goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooogle.com is better than google.com

That, my friends, is http://www.goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooogle.com/ , aka G56ogle.com. It’s Google, but themed. Unlike Google’s themes which only allow you to select a photo that makes the homepage blind your eyes, G56ogle.com has pre-made themes that look just awesome. And yes, G56ogle.com uses Google, although it doesn’t have the same features. It’s still worth a try though.

How much time did Google Pacman waste us?

The answer: A lot.

According to Rescuetime.com, 4.82 million hours of time were wasted on PacMan. That translates into:

  • 300,000 days
  • 6,690 months [30d = 1m]
  • 550. years
  • 5.50 centuries

That’s almost half a millenium of time spent by the entire world population playing Google Pacman.

Additionally, when everyone found out that the Google Pacman logo was playable, $120 million dollars was lost in the global economy by the end of Sunday. On opening day, Google amassed 505 million unique visitors, and the game consumed around  5 million hours of work time.

This is the first time Google has done an interactive logo, but they’ve managed to place a significant dent in world productivity.

And additionally, you can still play Google Pacman by going to http://google.com/pacman .

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Note: All calculations given to 3 significant figures

Google redesigns itself, Part 2 [REBLOG]

Regarding my post yesterday about Google Search’s new interface, Google had some things to say about its new design:

This post was originally written by Jon Wiley. It was posted on the Official Google Blog here. The post has been edited for this blog by Deathgleaner.

The Google design, turned up a notch

5/06/2010 12:30:00 PM

This week we introduced our latest update to search, and I wanted to share a bit of our thinking on the design team. In short, we tried to take all the things we strive for at Google and make them better: powerful technology, snappy results, simplicity and a fun and quirky personality. Our goal was to take a design known by millions of people and make it better. As a designer, it’s hard to think of a more exciting challenge.

During our process we focused on people’s rising expectations for search. As the web has evolved over the past decade, people have been typing more sophisticated searches and seeking out specialized search tools to match. To keep pace with rapid change online, we have teams of engineers working across Google to develop new ways to present and refine search results. Our central challenge with our latest redesign was to figure out how to squeeze all these tools and technologies into a single page.

A common way to expand the flexibility of a website has been to add a left-hand panel of links, often referred to by designers as a “left-hand nav.” We’ve been creating mocks of left-hand panels since the earliest days of Google and have tested these designs with users as far back as 2006. Overall, we’ve found they can provide a great way to navigate without getting in the way of the main content, but they can also be distracting. Our users want more powerful tools, but they also want the simplicity they’ve come to expect from Google.

As a first step towards finding that balance, we introduced the Search Options panel last May, including a toggle to open and close. This way we could quickly try out new search tools, such as refinements by time and content types. Using the lessons from Search Options, designers, researchers and engineers worked side-by-side to explore a vast array of possibilities for a permanently open panel of search tools. We made hundreds of prototypes and gathered feedback from user studies, Googlers and through experiments — including one of our largest visible experiments ever. In the end, we came up with a design that provides dynamic, relevant search tools on the left, while lightening and updating the aesthetics all around. Here’s a picture of the Search Options panel (left) and our new results page (right):


We knew that adding a left-hand panel would inevitably add some weight to the results page, so we took a number of steps to lighten other aspects of the design. The overall visual redesign started with the Google logo. Here’s an image comparing the old logo (top) and the new logo (bottom):
The new logo is lighter, brighter and simpler. We took the very best qualities of our design — personality and playfulness — and distilled them. The logo was the foundation for new icons and hundreds of tiny alterations designed to accommodate and seamlessly integrate the expanded functionality of the left-hand panel. For example, we lightened up the footer at the bottom of the page by removing the blue shading and the underlines on the links, lightening the color and expanding the search box. Here’s a picture of the old footer (top) compared with the new (bottom):

While I’m very happy about our latest improvements, a designer’s work is never done. We’re already testing additional refinements and we’ll continue to listen to all of you as we work to continue making search better.

If you’re curious, here are some of the other design prototypes we tried (you might have to click to magnify some of these images):

  1. Blue homepage: We’ve always had a strong affinity for blue — after all, blue is usually the color of web links, so it binds the web together. It became the basis for many designs.
  2. Blue button: The big blue button made it all the way to our first external experiment, where it was promptly rejected by users. We heard you loud and clear and changed the button in the next round.
  3. Universal bars: This design emphasizes different types of results with labeled blocks in the main results pane, such as books, news and shopping.
  4. Blue results: This is one of the final blue designs we created and marks the point when we renamed the “Web” link to “Everything” — a label that gets closer to the intent of our mission to organize all the world’s information.

Posted by Jon Wiley, Senior User Experience Designer

End reblog

Here’s some interesting quotes I found while reading this:

  • “During our process we focused on people’s rising expectations for search. As the web has evolved over the past decade, people have been typing more sophisticated searches and seeking out specialized search tools to match.” About the sidebar that Google has just introduced, I’m inferring that Bing and Yahoo! did this out of user expectations. Finally, Google steps up to other users’ expectations.
  • “In the end, we came up with a design that provides dynamic, relevant search tools on the left, while lightening and updating the aesthetics all around.” What Google had before was a collapsible search options sidebar. Now, they make it visible with less clutter.

Apparently, Google also had more redesigns than I thought, including the bluification of its search: “We’ve always had a strong affinity for blue — after all, blue is usually the color of web links, so it binds the web together. It became the basis for many designs.”

Thanks for finally realizing our needs, Google.