Facebook vs. Google

I knew this was gonna happen so I’m glad I invested in the wait. I had been waiting a long time to figure out my options as to which social networking tool I’d use to enhance my sites with, and after the smoke cleared I think I’m getting a fairly good idea now.

To sum it up, there are four nominees. Twitter, Plurk, Facebook Connect and just recently, I discovered Google’s Friend Connect. I haven’t twittered nor plurked too much though, but I’ve certainly Facebooked and Googled. The fact that Facebook has become something of a minor revolution to my site’s target audience (Filipina women) has helped it’s cause rather well. While Google, well, it’s Google, so the fight is on.

My observations so far:

  1. I remember chancing upon an article re Facebook being ‘closed’ to the outside world or something or other, and I found out just how much that was true when trying to extend content from it to outside, and then to it from the outside. RSS works well enough porting info from my blog to my facebook profile, but pulling info from it? No dice, and I doubt that’s gonna change.
  2. The old internet term of a ‘walled garden’ approach comes to mind re facebook, and it is at full force here. The fact that facebook allows 3rd party apps creates a ‘mini-internet’ if you think about it. In a small controlled environment you get to quickly use and enjoy those apps because its sans the bewildering array of choices that often overwhelm us on the Internet. Kind of how you might enjoy swimming in a pool because it’s small and manageable rather than in the ocean. As long as FB keeps making interesting apps people will just be their natural social selves and keep connecting with one another.
  3. And that’s the key, really. People like seeing each other on the Internet, people like sharing info with their friends and making cute status messages that bely how they feel and elicit reaction from their contacts. People are just very social, period (and probably Filipinos even more so). How the application allows this to flourish is key to good social networking. If you can’t get your contact – slash – crush to notice how nice you looked in that new dress, then the whole thing is just useless.
  4. However, facebook is not the Internet, and the Internet is forever bigger and stronger. Sooner or later some killer application, either related to social networking or messaging or what have you will come about, and everyone would wanna use it. If it won’t want to have anything to do with Facebook (either by design or by accident, such as it has its own walled garden approach), then that will weaken Facebook. In other words, anything that cannot be ported to facebook is a threat to facebook. Facebook wants you to use it as you would the Internet. Facebook wants to be the Internet.
  5. Google’s Friendconnect however, is infinitely simpler. In fact, it’s so simple that all it requires of you is to paste code onto your site, whichever site type you are using, and it’s up and running. You could be running myspace, blogger, wordpress or a simple html static site, and you’re good to go.
  6. While that simplicity will play an integral part of its success, it made me feel it was too simple at times. Drupal and WordPress, the two CMSes I prefer, are both very powerful, and plugins or modules you can slap onto them increase their power even more. Slapping on some Google javascript on the sidebar doesn’t make use of those CMSes power. They’re just there, like those ubiquitous javascript chat pages or map thingamajings that show where in the world your site has been accessed. They’re nice, and they’re cute, but they don’t extend the CMS. I want it to extend my CMS. That’s why I used a CMS to begin with.

My decision? I’m trying out both to find out.

I’ve already installed Google Friend Connect to my sidebar at Ballex, and I’ll be using Facebook Connect soon as well. There are WordPress plugins available, and again, since I like extending my CMS, I tend to lean towards these types of solutions.

I need to choose one though, because I do not like to confuse my readers. It’s important I only offer one option for these things, and that if I do do this, that I not turn back. It’d be annoying to readers to install something and remove it later.

So far Facebook has the upper hand since it’s a plugin. Then again like I said, Google is Google, so it’s hard to pass that up. But until theirs matures I’m leaning towards Facebook.

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