Google+ vs. Facebook: More Passive Aggression & Creepiness in Tech Soap Opera

Google’s Bradley Horowitz responded to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent verbal jab that Google is just “building their own little Facebook” in a Bloomberg.com interview. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg stopped by the Charlie Rose show to make a few insinuations of his own about just how underhanded and sneaky his rivals are. Grab the popcorn, folks, and set your BS detectors to full bore.

Google+ More Popular Than You Think, You’re Just Looking At It Wrong

When asked for specifics on user engagement and sharing activity by Bloomberg's Emily Chang, Horowitz dodged and weaved like a champ, giving us the same type of tap dance we saw from Vic Gundotra in his recent Web 2.0 Summit interview with John Battelle.

Citing recent integration efforts including YouTube, Chrome, and Direct Connect for brand pages as traffic drivers for the social network, he said “If you ask yourself the question, how many Google Plus users are coming back to Google on a daily or weekly basis, the number is staggering. It is incumbent on us to light up these integrations so wherever the come on Google, they’re recognized as a Google Plus user and get additional value proposition for that.”

Too bad that wasn’t the question. Chang inquired as to how many users were active on the Google+ site itself, not how many are dragged kicking and screaming into it because they’re discovering they already have a profile. Even as Horowitz answered, Bloomberg displayed a Google+ traffic graph from Chitika Insights that highlighted the apparent gap between reality according to Google and reality in general. Here’s are more recent Google+ traffic stats from Chitika:

chitika-google-plus-usage

It’s clear that questions about user activity will keep popping up as long as Google continues to hedge and deflect. Horowitz suggested that people are looking at Google+ in entirely the wrong way and this could explain the discrepancy between Google’s perception of usage and that of the rest of the free world. Don’t look at it as a siloed product, distinct from everything else they’re doing at Google, he suggests.

Google+ Cranks Ups the Creep Factor with Each Interview

Horowitz tried to further distance Google+ from Facebook by claiming the social network they’ve built is uniquely their own and early comparisons between the two were just the result of people jumping the gun. When asked about Zuckerberg’s assertion that Google+ is little more than a Facebook ripoff, he responded, “We are delighted to be underestimated. It’s served us very well to date, and that’s fine by us. I’m not going to clear anything up.” Bam!

How dare you, Mark? Google never copies or steals the innovations of others, especially when they’ve tried to acquire said companies and failed. (Ahem, Flipboard, Groupon, Yelp.

When asked whether the two are in direct competition or could co-exist, he pointed to the popularity of existing Google services such as YouTube and GMail as differentiating factors. In the most awkward segue ever, he moved into the topic of Google+ as an identity project:

“Today, they come back to us a largely unidentified state. We know very little about them and we remember very little about them. The way that we think of Google+ is changing this mode of interaction so that we actually get to know our users deeply. We understand who they are, what they love, who they know, and then reflect that back as value to them, so that all our services get better when users use their own data in their own service.”

When we first began to hear the term “Identity Project” thrown around in relation to Google+, it sounded like the stuff of science fiction movies. As we reported recently, though, the White House has officially announced Google’s certification as an identity provider, one of a handful authorized for use with certain federal apps.

As Google+ and Facebook continue to try to one-up each other with user features and benefits, throwing barbs at one another in press appearances, the biggest difference between the two may also be how they are most alike. They both want users on their service active engaging in ways we wouldn’t have dreamed possible a few years ago, leaving IP addresses, usernames, GPS coordinates, personal preferences, shopping habits, and more on the table.

Google+ wants all of your personal data to target you for advertisers and potentially for use in some unknown way in coordination with the federal government. Facebook wants all of your personal data to target you for advertisers and potentially for use by third-party with whom they partner.

Creepy.

Stop the Presses, They Really Are Different

Zuckerberg and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg took to the Charlie Rose show for their latest piggy-tail pull in the social media network playground war (though both sides deny there is a war – it's all a media conspiracy, you see). Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo are the real bad guys here, according to the Facebook founder. He claims they collect far more information about users than Facebook does.

“It's just that they're collecting that about you behind your back," Zuckerberg said. "You're going around the Web and they're collecting this huge amount of information about you and you never know that."

This is clearly a conundrum. No one can agree on who takes the crown as biggest villain in the violation of user privacy! To shed some light on the subject, I called my good friends Seth Myers and Amy Poehler, those fun-loving BS detectors from the “Saturday Night Live” Weekend Update “Really??” skit.

(Alright, while it would be 100 percent awesome if I could call up the cast of SNL, they really have no idea I’m alive. You’ll have to settle for what I think they would say, if they were as nerdy as I am, given the outlandish claims being made by Google and Facebook.)

Seth: Hey, Amy, did you hear Google’s excuse for collecting and compiling private user data and becoming an Identity Provider for the feds? They claim it’s to better the user experience. I mean, come on, really?

Amy: Really, Google? That’s the best you could do? It really has nothing to do with dominating the online advertising world and making more money than God, really? You think we don’t notice that your reps’ eyes glaze over and they start salivating every time they work that into an interview? Really??

Seth: Yeah. It’s so they can “help” you make better choices. Cause that ad for fat belly remedies that follows me around the Web after I searched Google for diet advice one time - ONE TIME - is really helping me out a lot. Really, Google.

Amy: Oh, Google has really gone way too far. Mark Zuckerberg said so. I mean, really, Mark? You want us to believe all the other companies are collecting our information and Facebook is really just open and friendly and honest? Really? I guess those European students are lying about their 1,000 page Facebook user data files, right? Really, Mark?

Seth: Really?

Amy: Oh yeah. We can’t see them because we’re American, but Facebook really does have a massive data file with pretty much everything you’ve ever done. Come on now, Facebook, you really think we’re buying your line that you’re the innocent victim here? You really have no other motive than your ponies and butterflies visionof serendipitous something-something-more-serendipity-and-flowers open society? Really?

Seth: Really, Facebook!

Amy: Really, Google.

*both shake heads* 

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Coming up on our next episode: Did Google really steal Facebook’s boyfriend? Who loses their temper and has a drunken car wreck? And which social media network was caught rigging the student council vote? You won’t want to miss a minute.