The Facebook/Google wars are heating up.
Google is enticing sign-ups for Google+ — which zoomed out of invitation-only mode and into public worldwide release in just under the 90 days — by touting its "Hangouts" video-chat feature.
The virtual lounge, which lets up to nine people link up and chat on video and host online broadcasts, will be demonstrated via a live demo tonight, when The Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am hosts the first "Hangout on Air" at 7pm Eastern.
"Hangouts should keep pace with how you socialize in the real-world, so today we're launching it on the one device that's always by your side: your mobile phone," SVP engineering Vic Gundotra said in a blog post. (Click here for a video demo.)
The integration of Google Wallet and Google Offers ensures the company’s dominance in mobile by combining local and personal, offline and online commerce on their Android platform. Support for Apple iOS devices "is coming soon."
Google’s +1 button, already ubiquitous on the web and in search results is adding a social layer to display ads next month, as consumers can "like" an ad and share their endorsement via Google+.
Google+ (whose goal is "to make sharing on the web more like sharing in real life") is also opening up to brands, enabling them to create profiles and circles like individuals, and marketers can leverage "circles" to parse users for targeted messages.
An estimated 25 million users have joined Google+ since its inception and these announcements are a bold push-back to the recent Facebook/Twitter deal and critics who doubted Google’s continued cognizance of and excellence in all things Internet. The pre-holiday timing is pitch perfect.
And on the same day Google+ threw an open house and invited the world to drop by, Facebook, still the No.1 social networking service with more than 750 million users, announced its News Feed redesign, which has been garnering mixed reviews.
Facebook touts its redesigned feed as: “All of your news is now in one place with the most interesting stories featured at the top. If you haven’t visited Facebook for a while, the first things you’ll see are top photos and status updates posted while you’ve been away. They’re marked with an easy-to-spot blue corner. If you check Facebook more frequently, you’ll see the most recent stories first. Photos will also be bigger and easier to enjoy while you’re scrolling through.”
In short, the born again News Feed essentially curates friends’ posts and decides their placement on your user profile page. Over on Facebook rival Twitter, users are grumbling about the new Facebook design — follow the #newfacebook hashtag to see comments such as:
A Facebook spokesperson explained to the Washington Post, “Just as we aim to show you the most relevant updates in your News Feed today, we use a variety of signals to decide whether a story might be interesting or important. For example, this may include changes about your employer, school, relationship status or city, as well as things like the number of likes or comments on a post. For example, if a friend's post gets dozens of comments or likes, it’s likely to be a top story.”
If you disagree with the algorithm's curation, “You can click on a top story and tell Facebook that it’s not relevant to you, or you can mark a post a top story.” The overall goal is increased “stickiness.” Photos displayed in the News Feed will double in size, in the most visible change for consumers.
“The thing I personally find exciting is realizing three quarters of a billion people use the product and that range of experience can be someone with 15 friends to someone with tens of thousands of subscribers who uses the site for four hours every day,” he added. “We are adding some features but trying to do our best to simplify what we can and make them optional,” said Facebook VP Engineering Mike Schroepfer.
ClickZ News notes that as part of its user interface redesign,
Facebook is attempting to make brand pages stickier by adding a "Friend Activity" tab. It allows viewers to quickly see a recent history of their Facebook friends' interactions with the brand, including "likes," comments, and status mentions. A spokesperson for the Palo Alto, CA-based social giant told ClickZ News that the tweak should create more word-of-mouth for marketers on the site. "If I can see that my friends have liked the brand or commented about it on the page for Coca-Cola, I am going to visit that page more," the Facebook rep explained.
In another brand-friendly move, Facebook is expected to unveil a media platform at tomorrow’s kick-off of its f8 developer’s conference and deeper e-commerce integration adding to their current online payment system, Facebook Credits, greater visibility and integration via Project Spartan with an HTML5-based mobile platform reported Mashable.
How BetaNews commented on Facebook's umpteenth design tweak: "Facebook, Stop It, Just Stop It."