New social network, same old story

First, it was Friendster … what’s that? You’re right. It wasn’t, but we’d be here all day if we talked about Classmates.com, ICQ, Yahoo Pager, MSN Messenger, etc.

To save time, let’s pretend Friendster came first, with its ability to reconnect with old friends. Then MySpace came around, and added musicians. Then it was Facebook, which started as a college thing but branched out.

And you can’t forget Twitter. Or LinkedIn. Or Tagged. Or MyYearbook. Or … you know what? Here’s a blank space so you can write in the one I forgot _______________________.

New social network, same basic story. The new network comes to the gate. Backers of the current leader scoff, “How does your site improve networking?” Heck, the same question gets asked back to the ones that are established. The ones that can answer the question stay; the ones that can’t get ignored, shut down or sold off, with somebody taking a huge loss.

A few weeks ago, we saw what happened when MySpace couldn’t answer that very question. The site was purchased in 2006 by News Corp for $580 million when it was the big leader, but was offered for $100 million this April and finally purchased for $35 million by a group aligned with Justin Timberlake.

Time will tell if MySpace knocks on the gate again. Time will also tell who answers.

Facebook stands as the current leader, but Google is striking with its third attempt at social networking. After the fizzles of Google Buzz and Google Wave, the online giant has come with Google Plus. Or Google+. Or G+. It’s still in the works.

The site lets you build friend networks through the creation of circles. There are some basic circles for friends, family and acquaintances, but you can create your own, and nobody ever knows what circle you added them to.

That makes the basic difference the starting point.

When you begin a post on Facebook, the starting point is that everybody sees it. It’s then up to the user to make their page private, and hide posts from users who shouldn’t see that information. Like a big “Reply All” button.

When you begin a post on Google+, the starting point is that nobody sees it. The user adds groups and/or individuals. Like a panel discussion.

There are still plenty of advantages for Facebook. It has a larger user base that continues to grow. It has the bigger infrastructure for school and work networks. It has event creation and accounts for business, while Google+ does not.

I can’t explain everything about each network, and suggest you research them on your own (one of them has a search engine they’d love for you to try). I don’t know who will win, or even the definition of winning. I just think it’s going to be really interesting.

An irony I find is that Google+ employs circles, because a network goes in a circle. It starts with crashing another network’s gates to find an audience, and then it comes full circle when it becomes the gatekeeper itself.