Facebook was never a big geek site (Google+ needs to pass more than the geek test)

The consensus I’m hearing from people on Google+ is that it is no Buzz or Wave.

It’s a quality product that has had a successful launch so far. I’ve even heard of people considering switching from Facebook to Google+ or from people who don’t use Facebook but will use Google+. These people all have something in common: they’re geeks and technologists.

Many of these people like Google+ because it’s not Facebook. It doesn’t have 750 million users, and its userbase doesn’t have sorority sisters or technophobic grandparents. Google+ isn’t the most popular site in the US.

Facebook has those sorority sisters who don’t like geeks. It has grandparents, mommy bloggers, lawyers, doctors, journalists, etc, etc, etc. It does have geeks, but it’s not a place for geeks by geeks.

I was on Facebook in 2005 when only a few schools had it. It was never a geek tool.


I learned about it from non-geeks who loved the idea of sharing photos and information with other students. It was like the campus facebook (a print publication that showed everyone’s year, major, a few interests and a photo), but a lot better. In fact, it’s hard to describe how silly that print facebook seemed that day Facebook came to campus.

Facebook back then knew which dorm you were logged in from and broadcast that to people viewing your profile (at this time, only Lehigh students could see my profile). Facebook also allowed you to list classes you were in. It was a different place, and at the time it felt kind of magical.

It felt magical because Facebook caught on like wildfire like only a non-geek tool could. It was considered strange at Lehigh if you weren’t on Facebook by 2006. But Facebook was something that only college students could use, and it was a much different dynamic then (frankly it was more immature and fun back then, but not necessarily better).

I say all of this because geeks and technologists like us don’t decide which technologies become hits. It’s the average user that does. Sorority sisters deserve to have technologies that help keep up on the latest that their friends are doing. Grandparents deserve to have an easy way to see the latest photos of grandchildren.

I’ve never been one to not like something because it was popular. Technology that is whole-heartedly embraced by the masses tends to be good for geeks too. Technology that becomes popular, especially when there aren’t barriers to entry keeping competition out, tends to be good technology.

I like Google+ and so does Jeremy. A lot of my friends and colleagues do too. But we’re geeks and technologists. Only when Google+ is open to everyone wil we really be able to see it’s long-term potential.


7 Comments on “Facebook was never a big geek site (Google+ needs to pass more than the geek test)”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Agreed. Reminds me of Quora. Quora is a fantastic tool and the team has done a great job (as has the G+ team), but it’s still mostly limited to a geeky, silicon valley based audience. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that Facebook is probably safe as the world’s social network.

    • It has reminded me too of Quora. I’m surprised that Quora has remained popular and focused. It is limited to geeks, but I think that’s it’s biggest strength. We don’t really need another Yahoo! Answers.

      If Google+ remains focused and popular with geeks and people using it for work, that’s a worthwhile niche to be in. Can it overtake Facebook? I don’t know about that, but Twitter has proven that there is room for more than one social network.

  2. […] the original post: Facebook was never a big geek site (Google+ needs to pass more … Categories : Geeky […]

  3. RJ Ryan says:

    I invited all of my friends (~50 non-technical people) and they are all using it regularly.

    Also you say people like it because everyone (e.g. parents, acquaintances, etc.) isn’t on it. That’s a Facebook-only problem — you don’t want to put your mom in your friend-bucket. This is actually a non-problem on Google+ because all sharing is targeted. That’s what makes it very compelling — it models your real life social interactions.

    • I’m waiting until the general launch to really gauge this. I like it and a lot of people I know like it, but if I just went on that, I’d be suffering from epistemic closure. You know what you know, and you know what your friends know. I need to see more than that to know what to truly think.

      Google+’s circles is a great idea, and it certainly can solve many of the issues that afflict Facebook. I think Facebook’s biggest problem is that people started using it in ways that weren’t intended. Facebook is supposed to be a private social network where you don’t need a filter. But then people’s work colleagues started to ask to be friends and then grandparents, etc.

      For friends and family I don’t really need to censor myself on Facebook, but I do keep an eye on what I post because I have professional colleagues and coworkers on Facebook as well. Google+ certainly solves this problem.

      Google+ even allows a level of granularity that can help foster better professional conversations. I have a circle for my journalism colleagues, another for social media, and so on. I can really have targeted conversations in a way that Facebook and Twitter don’t allow.

      Google+ has a lot of professional potential. I’m just not sure on mainstream appeal yet. You don’t get to 750 million users by appealing mostly to technologists and people using your product for work.

      That 750 million users is the big barrier for Google+. Why would people join and use Google+ when they already use Facebook? That’s the big question.

      There are already millions of Gmail users and that may be Google+’s best shot at getting mainstream appeal.

  4. […] Facebook was never a big geek site (Google+ needs to pass more than the geek test) — Facebook became popular because it appealed to geeks and non-geeks alike. Can Google+ do that too? […]

  5. […] I was on Facebook in the early days, and I can tell you that the discussions on the site were not about Facebook or about tech. It was a social experience that anyone could enjoy and the site appealed to just about anyone on campus. […]

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