Google+ vs. Facebook: The Trust Factor

Following my initial report earlier today, here are a few more assessments. If you're in the tech world you've probably seen these already, but for those who haven't, the implications are interesting -- especially about the cumulative role of corporate reputation.

- Robert Scoble explains why the somewhat nerdy/tech-y feel of Google+, compared with Facebook, could actually be a plus.

- And, in an essay about the meaning of trust and connection in the social media age, Christopher Michael Luna, currently a divinity student at Harvard, says that he prefers G+ because he trusts the company behind it more than he trusts Facebook. A sample:

>>I trust Google in a way that surprises me. I trust them more than any other corporation I can think of....

Google is currently in a power war with China.... It took a stand, and now it's fighting the Chinese government more strongly on issues of freedom of information and security than any major company I'm aware of.

On the other hand, Facebook is talking about complying with the Chinese government's demands in order to enter China, and Microsoft is already partnering with Baidu which was, until recently, the world's most censored search engine....

I'd like to see Google win this war, and I know who's side I'm on here. I kind of think that leaving Facebook is one way that we can participate in this war.<<

You could take this argument too far, but Luna makes a strong case -- and does so in a more interesting blog layout than you usually see. On his "trust" theme, my view is: Google errs and oversteps and can seem threateningly large, but in the end it acts as if it has a conscience. So far the record is that Facebook stops only when it is caught. (I welcome contrary evidence or argument, including from my friends there.) Check out Luna's case. Another installment about trust and respect for the user, after the jump.

Two others: the New York Times description of the "hangouts" feature of Google's new offerings, and Jacob Kramer-Duffield's explanation of why he "can say for certain that whatever the long-term impact of the [Google+] suite of services will be, it is in a meaningful way a complete success." At a minimum the service is a success is raising important questions about the webbed world. And (bonus) an interesting data point on initial user response.

More from Christopher Luna:

>>And G+ is already showing us how it respects the user. When I heard about G+, I felt a looming fear about my photos. I've been a long-time Flickr (owned by Yahoo!) user, and I was worried about integrating my Flickr account into a Social Networking site owned by Google; but more than that, I was considering whether or not to switch to Picasa just for the sake of better, smoother integration.

Try taking your photos off Flickr, though. It is an arduous process, requiring special programs built for the task (which don't run on Ubuntu to the best of my knowledge), or an unthinkable one-at-a-time download process. It's absurd. These are my photos, and I pay yearly for a Pro Account for them to be hosted on Flickr. If there's an easy way to download my photos, I don't know it.

Compare this to G+, whose Data Liberation makes downloading everything you've uploaded (not just photos, but contacts and other information) a relatively simple task. My data with G+, even without paying Google, is my data. They give it to me freely, easily and conveniently. They invite me to take it elsewhere because they know they're the best.<<

Standard disclaimers: I know people at all the companies under discussion. And I've known Jacob Kramer-Duffield since he went to grade school with one of my sons.  

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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