Why Facebook Timeline May Be Good for Google+

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-09-26 Print this article Print

People who paid attention to the new Facebook Timeline user interface viewed it with many different opinions.

It's great because it offers users the opportunity to host their history online. It's terrible because it's too creepy and all inclusive, a money-grubbing bid to better target users with social ads.

As social media guru Charlene Li told me, having more info about a user can lead to more precise ads.

In the competitive context, Facebook Timeline as I wrote appears to leapfrog Google+, which despite what any Googler may tell you, was created in Facebook's image.

Wackiness ensued: Facebook and Google have appeared to copy each other like crazy since Google+ landed in July.

I've read several comments by analysts and pundits who said Facebook has outclassed or surpassed Google+ in sharing.

EMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson told the Associated Press, "Google Plus almost looks dated now.".

Echo co-founder Chris Saad said Google+ is now 3 or 4 years behind Facebook. We'll see. Timeline has yet to launch live.

Timeline could also very well boost the Google+ user base. Why? How? Well, this is the first major Facebook UI overhaul since Google+ launched and, judging from the early reactions, people aren't happy with it. This Wall Street Journal poll, where over 87 percent of 3,000-plus users say they don't like the coming changes, says it all.

Of course, people grouse and gripe two to four times a year at Facebook's major UI changes. That's nothing new, but it hasn't stopped Facebook's roll. The social network has over 800 million users. Does that seem like a company in danger of losing its user base?

And yet ... people didn't really have an alternative to Facebook before. Twitter is fine for short stuff, but for the full-bodied social network, only Facebook would do.

That is, until Google+. So if users are really upset about Timeline, from which there is no escape, they can opt out by leaving Facebook behind by going to Google+.

Will they? Probably not. The barrier to enter is low, but the barrier to leave is high. Facebook does offer an easy data exporting tool like Google Takeout.

MySpace co-founder Tom Anderson argues that because Timeline promises to make Facebook so different, the variety will afford Google+ more opportunities:

Facebook has just announced their vision for this platform. It's now becoming more & more different from Google's. This is good for Google because it encourages the Google team to reflect and consider how they are different: to uncover the philosophical underpinnings of what they've created, and to refine the design of something that embodies the values they want to encourage.

He also asked Google to "dig deep" and "create a platform to better humanity."

These are lofty aspirations. Let's hope Google can live up to them before trying to figure out how to make big bucks from its fledgling platform.

In the meantime, perhaps Google+ will give irate Facebook users who hate Timeline some shelter:

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