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Why Facebook's New Vision is Good for Google+

I sat back in awe watching Zuckerberg at F8 today. Facebook has done it again -- they are always reinventing themselves, always pushing toward the future. They're so good at incorporating other ideas at the right time (http://on.mash.to/rkpYna) and leaving out ideas, when the're too early.

Many people have messaged me on G+ saying that the new Facebook looks like MySpace of 2008. Customizing profiles with modules, music, video, news. There's some truth to that. But MySpace (even under my leadership) was a rudimentary and often poor implementation of those ideas. It's also true that people may have not been ready for MySpace back then. (Not to mention that web standards and bandwidth may have not been ready.)

The thinking behind Facebook and MySpace have always shared some basic tenets, if not from the outset, at least by late 2004:

1) Everyone will be online. Some old folks will learn. The young will swim in it.
2) Everything gets better online when you can socialize around it / talk about it.
3) People want a "place" on the web, to be found, to communicate, and represent themselves.

These are some of the basic reasons these sites are so popular. Facebook gradually got better than MySpace at realizing all these basic ideas. The one they were never that good at was "representing" the individual. That will probably change with this new launch. There's a chance Facebook could execute poorly and things won't work as well as they hoped, but that's not likely. Facebook generally gets things right over time.

So if Facebook keeps getting better & better, and keeps delivering on the basic promise of "social networking," how is that good for Google+? It's good because with the changes announced today, Facebook becomes quite different. I wouldn't say that today's Google+ is too much like today's Facebook. But I will say, that to succeed in the long run, it'll have to be different. And it just got easier to be "different."

+Vic Gundotra and +Bradley Horowitz and crew have a challenging, rewarding and completely awesome task set before them. They're working on a project that is so fun, because it means so much to so many people. When you work on something like Google+, Facebook, or Twitter, and millions of people use it, and you know it'll keep growing, and you see it upsetting the power balance in businesses, politics, and life, it's an awesome feeling... you can't help but think lofty thoughts. You feel like you're changing the world, contributing to society, and it makes you feel more connected to that world. You have the feeling that must inspire politicians in the beginning of their careers -- "I'm going to make this world a better place." And you get that feeling without all the nasty stuff that politicians must face. You didn't have to compromise to get there. You just made something cool and people responded and used your creation. Maybe they used it in ways you never dreamed of, but you see it making an impact in people's lives.

I wrote a few days ago about what kind of humanity different social sites encourage (http://bit.ly/nLj66l -- same as the shared link at the bottom of this story). Now is the time for the Google team to dig deep, and think about what they want for humanity. What's the best way to live? What's the best way to interact with our brothers and sisters across the globe? Connecting human beings in this way was simply not possible before the Internet. How can this powerful tool be refined to encourage the kind of relationships that will inspire us, behavior we should strive for, and the memories we will treasure? How can you create a platform to better humanity?

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. It's not about Facebook and Google "copying" each other. It's about defining the vision behind the code, features, and website, so that everyone working on the product lives & breathes it.

As a user, I look forward to seeing the various online "countries" created by Google, Facebook & Twitter. In the online world, we can choose to be a citizen of any digital country we want. In fact, we can even choose to hold dual or triple citizenship, without the hassle of passports & travel. We all benefit as each country becomes more of a unique place to live online.

I'll end this by linking to / sharing my earlier post that I coupled with a Steve Jobs video, "Good artists copy. Great artists steal."

It's time for Google to refine it's vision so it sings like a simple and perfect poem. (Maybe it already does.. as outsiders, we can't know that yet. Websites like Google+ aren't built in a day, or even a year.) From that poem, the Google+ team will be able to put together an elegant website that suggests an ideal for humanity. To paraphrase something from my earlier post I just shared, this all may sound a little too heady. But we are talking about social networks here. Why do you think people spend so much time on these sites? Why is there an uproar when they change? Social sites speak to our deepest needs, and, our souls, even. Enjoy Google, I bet you folks are having the time of your lives right now :-)
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