The competition between Facebook and Google is hotting up with both sides developing and releasing new features and attempting to get one step ahead.
At its annual conference, F8, Facebook announced many new features and enhancements it will be introducing in the coming days. One of these is a new concept for the profile it calls Timeline. Timeline allows users to post more than meaningless status updates - it allows the stories of a person's life to be shared. Many different types of events can be added to a Timeline, under the headings of Work and Education, Family and Relationships, Living, Health and Wellness, Milestones and Experiences. I am currently using Timeline and can do nothing but sing its praise.
The Google+ Profile consists of four tabs; Posts, About, Photos and Videos. These arrange everything you post on Google+ into easy-to-navigate sections which allow other users to quickly see what you're about. I really love the simple and intuitive interface of the whole service - it won't be hard for new users to get in on the action which is especially important as Google+ is now open for all.
The Facebook 'News Feed' has also had some updates this week. The new version shows both top stories and most recent posts in order to deliver all content to users. Content can be marked as important to keep it on top of the mound of incoming information. Of course, the News Feed allows for liking and commenting on all sorts of content.
The Google+ Stream has most of the features of the Facebook News Feed. Again, you can post statuses, photos and videos and commenting is possible. Google uses the +1 button to vote up and show support for posts you enjoyed. This is the same +1 button that is used in Google Search.
Direct communication is a big part of both Google+ and Facebook. Facebook's chat feature allows people to talk to their friends in a snap. Photo and file sharing is also possible in chat via the 'full conversation' view. After Facebook teamed up with Skype, video calling was introduced.
Google+ had video calling from the start in a feature called Hangouts. A Hangout is unlike other video calling solutions as, by default, it allows anyone in your Circles - I'll talk about them next - to join you which encourages a more social mentality and interaction with people you may not normally talk to. Of course, it is also possible to talk to specific people when you need to. I really wish there were more features with this idea behind them.
As I said before, Google uses a feature called Circles to allow its users to connect. Circles are secret classifications for everyone you have on the social network. The simple drag and drop of Circles makes them easy to use and understand. I like anonymity of Circles so I can recognise the presence of that old friend from college, but not share everything with them - it's great!
This week, Facebook released an addition which built on its Groups feature to provide automatically curated Lists of people. Lists are made for locations, family, friends and work. These Lists allow you to keep up-to-date with all of the different people in your life. As well as automatically created Lists, you can create your own Lists. These can include any number of your friends with any title, creating a truly customised and personal experience.
Games and applications too are a significant part of social networks. Google+ currently has few games, but those that it does host are very high quality. Titles like Angry Birds and Bejeweled can be played and shared with friends. It is the clean and sleek interface of games which I love the most - this is what makes it stand out.
Facebook's games have been developing for years now and the site has built up a huge catalogue of games - and apps. At F8 this week, Facebook announced its dew Open Graph which allows apps to interact with the Timeline and users in an entirely different manner. This new type of app can tell your friends what you're reading, watching, playing, cooking and more! It allows every aspect of your life to be shared if you so wish, making your profile more personal and more you.
All of these features are a huge part of my life, but as it happens, I like a combination of them. I like the very graphical interface of Facebook and the simplicity and usability of Google+. The truth is, I want Facebook+! My perfect social network would have everyone on it and would have Timeline and the applications of Facebook, but also the animation of Circles. Video calling and Chat would be seamlessly integrated into the whole experience and, just so the little bird doesn't feel left out, I'd throw in the ability to follow people who aren't friends - although Facebook did just introduce the Subscribe button. I'd also like to be able to share the most unimportant rubbish without it interfering with the important updates I post - is there any one service that does all of that?
On to the fun bit; what would your ideal social network be like?