Why Google+ Is Different From Facebook, According to Google

A Google designer explains how the social network stands out

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With the release of Google+, you possibly groaned, saying you didn't need another social network. Google entered a very saturated market, and given its likeness to the very dominant Facebook, people have questioned its place on the Web. Can it really fill any niche that Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc. haven't covered?

Google thinks so. The company designed the site with other social networks in mind, looking at what these other companies did wrong, explains Google+ designer Andy Hertzfeld to Fast Company's John Pavlus. He gives the following four reasons why Google+ differentiates itself, besting any other social site out there.

Circles are fun

A big issue Hertztfeld takes with other networks is that they're difficult to set up. Finding friends or adding followers takes too much effort, which really puts a damper on the social part of things. So, instead of making the set-up part all boring and stuff, Google created a fun way to add your friends: circles. Sure, to some, dragging a face into a "circle" might seem tedious, but Hertzfeld argues it is a "delightful experience that rewards people -- we wanted to make it feel addicting... Categorization can easily become tedious, and fun animations help add a twinkle in the eye, some whimsy to the process."

He likens the experience to a video game, "a highly visual and physical process: you drag photos of people you know onto large, friendly-looking blue rings, which offer up springy, slot-machine-like animations when you let the mouse button go. (A tiny "+1" even pops out of the Circle and hovers in midair above it like a 1-UP in Super Mario Bros.)"

Webcams aren't creepy

No other site integrates video like Google+. Google sees videochatting less like a phone call and more like a group hang. The "Hangouts," Google+'s videochat feature, makes virtually chilling with your friends more informal, explains Hertztfeld. "The starting point for [designing] Hangouts is basic human nature: People love contact but they're shy about initiating it, especially with video." Before you know it you will be playing charades with your pals over Google+.

People love instant gratification

Sometimes, when you take a really awesome photo of your crew at the pool, you want to share how much fun you're having without all of your other friends as fast as possible. With Facebook, you need to take a moment and upload your memories; Google+ streamlines that process. Its mobile app has a feature called "Instant Upload," which, true to its moniker, puts your photo on Google+ as soon as its taken. "Larry [Page, Google's co-founder and CEO] was a big proponent of streamlining that experience," explains Hertztfeld.

For the Internet, Google+ is big on privacy

The Library of Congress saves all of your Tweets. Facebook has murky privacy settings, which they constantly amend. Google+, Hertzfeld declares, has privacy controls galore. You can choose to whom you share what, using those super fun circles and you can also see what others choose to share with you. "We want to appeal to the mainstream user who has a low tolerance for complexity," Hertzfeld says, "and at the same time we have to respect privacy as strongly as possible. So every feature has privacy implications that we thought out."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.