They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s true, the latest changes to Facebook must surely be heaping flattery by the metric ton on Google+.
It’s one of the clearest cases of imitation, without being a direct rip-off, that I can remember for a long time.
I talked before about Google+ doing a lot of things right, notably things like Circles, but the way it handles the stream of user posts.
Well, Facebook has signalled its intention to imitate that very fully – rolling out its Lists feature, which is a poor pretender of Circles, plus revamping its layout and data distribution to the user in a manner that imitates Google+’s.
I’m well aware that a lot of users are very upset by the new changes, mostly through the resistance to change that people have, but what I find most interesting is the fact that people aren’t moving to Google+.
Despite the fact that G+ is now open to all, and it’s even advertised on google.com with a none-too-subtle advert, there isn’t the mass exodus that some industry pundits were speculating on.
What I think is interesting about this is the reason why. Partly because most people tried out G+ but went back to Facebook once it was clear that there wasn’t a lot to keep people on G+, and I suspect there is an element whereby people actually prefer how Facebook operates in terms of layout and interaction.
I think the preference is deeper than simple resistance to change at work, though, I’m willing to entertain the notion that Facebook imitating G+ is actually harmful to it, rather than helping it, even though the score-card suggests imitating G+ is ‘where it’s at’.
The real test, of course, will be whether people actually start boycotting Facebook and/or mass-migrating to G+, and I suspect that if the change is merely a resistance matter, we won’t see much change long term.
One thing I have noticed lately is that users have a tendency to shout and stamp their feet but aren’t really prepared to ‘vote with their feet’ and migrate services, when they’re not happy. For some services, like Facebook, I can certainly see that being the case, just because it’s not like there are a lot of competing services that ‘everyone you know’ is available on.
Time will certainly tell, but I do find it very interesting to note who is copying whom in the social networking battles for user eyeballs; Google+ started out by imitating Facebook and adding twists, and Facebook responded by imitating Google+’s changes.
The next move, surely, is Google’s.