Instead of working hard, which is what I should be doing, a minor health issue (at least I hope it’s minor!!) forced me to take an unwanted rest for a few days. By a mere coincidence, this was the week that Google decided to launch their new not-so-close-but-now-definitely-closed-again social service, Google Plus.
Ironically, I was stuck on doing Second Life-to-social-networking integrations and needed a break, when my PhD supervisor managed to figure out a hack to send me an invite to Google Plus, so I logged in to see what the buzz was about (pun definitely intended).
Please note that Google has a terrible track record in launching absolutely new services, so I was a bit reluctant to join Yet Another Failed Social Networking Service by Google. I had joined Orkut when Google bought it; Orkut is pretty much forgotten by the whole world except in Brazil and India, where it’s used heavilly. When I’ve registered to Google Wave, I was looking forward mostly to its most important feature: integration. I have always been wary of duplicating content all over the ‘net and not being able to bring it together in the same place. For example, it used to be simple to add Flickr and YouTube streams to Facebook using an application for that (there were tons). Then Facebook decided to reinvent the wheel and just offer those very same services instead of having people use competing services; so that meant re-uploading everything again. Sure, there are still ways to get some integration, but Google Wave promised to completely change the way we thought about integration. It had a rather powerful API and some very cool ideas. Alas, on my poor outdated Macs, it was a pain to launch Google Wave and watch the slowdown — way, way worse than logging in to SL with my usual FPS of 1.8-3.3 🙂 And of course I did not understand very well what Google actually wanted to do with Wave: not integrating with everything out there, but simply to allow others to integrate everything with Wave — which obviously didn’t happen overnight. It was clear that the collapse of Wave was imminent; a friend of mine who works for Google says that they pretty much maintained Wave around for so long because programmers were happily sharing code on it, as well as “old school” role-players (of the paper-and-pencil generation), so it still had a purpose.
Google Buzz was an attempt to emulate Twitter. The idea was not terribly bad, but also not outstandingly impressive — definitely not a “Twitter killer”. Obviously, Gmail fans will enjoy the tight integration with Gmail, but things quickly get confusing — Buzz becomes a mailbox on Gmail. I’m possibly one of the few persons in the world that never liked Google’s “threaded” approach to “mail conversations” because I simply get way, way too much email — it’s a slow day if I get less than a 100 messages per day; usually, I get close to 300, sometimes 500 — and it’s impossible to keep track of a zillion open conversations that way: I keep missing the latest updates on all of them; so I stick to my old IMAP mail reader, Apple Mail. Still, I love the superfast search features, which obviously I use a lot.
Strangely, it seems to be far easier to integrate things with Buzz than with Wave. But let’s be honest: Buzz is also semi-dead and worthless, compared to the alternatives, and it cannot honestly be seen as Google’s best example of “social networking”.
So… Orkut is for a niche geographical market; Wave, technically defunct, only appealed to an even smaller niche market; and Buzz, well, it was a good idea launched way too late. And I won’t even mention Google Lively‘s completely failed approach to address the social virtual world market. Not a good track record so far (and remember that Orkut was a product they bought, not developed from scratch — even though the current generation of Orkut has definitely little to do with the original). With Larry Page at the helm of Google now, the question was: does Page still have the “spark” to keep the giant growing and making shareholders happy?
Well, it looks like they had a pretty good start. Here is my first impression of Google Plus, and remember, on this age of social networking innovation, first impressions count a lot.
What Google Plus is good for — “social networking” might just be secondary
So Google has been spreading rumours about their “serious” entry into social networking for quite a while. We all thought it would be Wave. Then they targeted Facebook’s most innovative technological breakthrough (Likes). Facebook without “Likes” wouldn’t really be Facebook, but just a revamped clone of whatever had come before it, with a clean design and lots of new features. But the ubiquitous “Like” button is what gave Facebook its fame and glory, specially because it’s so easy to integrate in pretty much anything. “Likes” appeal to a sense of competition: while the number of your friends on Facebook might just be available to whomever is logged in and bothers to check, “Like” buttons pretty much spread everywhere will immediately show an article or website’s popularity. It’s all about who can create the biggest bikini contest — “Likes” don’t really express much more than a good web marketing strategy. And they’re not a novelty, either — Digg had it right from the start, but never with the level of integration that Facebook provided.
Google copied the concept quite well with the “+1” button. There is obviously something which Google can leverage which Facebook cannot: they can order links on Google Search based on the popularity score of +1. And they can even order it based on your profile and your friends’ profiles (I don’t know if they actually do it that way), i.e. the order of the search results may be profile-optimised based on what your own friends think it’s worth reading. If Google pulls that off, they will effectively put “Likes” out of the market: we all know that what matters is how well your website/post/ad is ranked by Google, and “Likes” will never be featured there. Obviously that a well-“Liked” page will attract a lot of traffic and incoming links and thus, indirectly, be featured well by the Google Search ranking algorithm. But +1 influences it directly.
The question, of course, was how to get hundreds of millions of people to use +1 buttons instead of “Likes”. Right now, +1 is making just a very timid foray into becoming a successful feature on most pages; it will take some time to get used to. Still, with an alleged estimate of 200 million Gmail users (all of which with a Google Account that allows +1 to be used), it’s not unlikely that +1 gets more popular over time.
A way to jumpstart all this is Google Plus. Since sharing anything and commenting on shared items will feature +1, all of this will quickly show up on Google Search. And at that point Web and SEO marketeers will start to rethink their options: Facebook Likes might be good for 700 million users, but Google Search is used by everybody. Facebook ads might have given US$ 1.86 billion in revenues, and some claim that this is more than what Google gets from display ads, although Google’s Financial Tables show a different story: over US$28 billion in ad-related revenues, and growing steadily at over 20% a year.
Now the problem here for Google is that Facebook looks like an “opportunity”, because you will always know where your audience comes from — all data is profiled, and few people view Facebook ads without being logged in to Facebook, so Zuckerberg tracks everything neatly down. For Google Ads, Google has to infer where the visitors come from; only those 200 million Google Accounts might be logged in (and many might not even be logged in all the time), so ad statistics are only based on Google’s excellent — but incomplete — profiling stats. Facebook beats that easily.
If Google Plus catches on, the whole world of web-based advertising might do another 180º turn… again. Google, as you all know, proved during the dot-com bubble that you can survive selling web-based ads, at a time that nobody believed in those any more and all expected Google, like all other web-based ad sellers, to fold and disappear. They emerged from the bubble’s bursting as the leading web-based ad seller, with the competition — Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft — not coming even close. So if Google does one thing well is search engines; if they do two things well, the second one is obviously knowing how to sell ads. And why? Because they managed to link the two together, pretty much copying the same business model as Yellow Pages a century ago, but at a world-wide scale.
Now Google might not be so good at doing social networking tools, but — who knows? — they might have persuading arguments this time around. Google Plus, on this not-so-closed Beta, still doesn’t feature any ads. But it will. And in the mean time, the beta-testers are pushing all those +1’d links onto Google’s Search engine and making pages rank better. This will catch the attention soon, very soon, of all eager marketeers who still are waiting for Google to fail yet again.
Jumpstart into the activity
When I finally managed to create an account with Google Plus, the thing that immediately caught my attention was how it was crammed full with activity from all my friends. Because of timezone differences, I just logged in for the first time in slightly less than 24 hours after the not-so-closed Beta was “opened”; in fact, I joined in after Google shut down new registrations but left an open “hack” which allowed people to register if they got a shared comment by email. That was also closed now — so, no more registrations until someone figures out a new hack — but those 24 hours were precious. I haven’t checked how many people managed to register for Google Plus, but I’ve noticed that pretty much everybody I know in SL had an account there. Well, not everybody, of course, but at least everybody who is always busy flooding the social Internet with blogs, articles, and comments on Plurk/Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/whatever else is fashionable in the moment. Because Google obviously knows who my contacts are — after all, they’re in Gmail — it was easy to present me with a page full of my existing friends’ activity. That’s very clever. You don’t get that daunting “empty social networking” page which you always get when entering a new service and are starting to figure out the interface to look for your friends to join.
Note that I have already suggested that Linden Lab does exactly the same for newbies just registering with SL: by having a checkbox for “allow my friends to search for email address” or something like that, new registrations could immediately have a list of friends to add, and this would give an otherwise “empty” world a completely different look.
Google Plus definitely leverages on the idea that your friends will quickly find you, and vice-versa, and all will be eagerly sharing content and commenting on each other — and clicking on those precious +1 buttons. So there is an immediate sense of reassurement: this is the place where everybody already is.
The issue here is pretty easily explained. When someone registers for Facebook, they have to create a new account. Obviously Facebook will try to make an effort to find some friends for you, and there are a lot of Facebook applications that will be even more aggressive; and you are always prompted to invite more and more friends. Since these days everybody and their dog are already on Facebook (wait, I forgot; dogs cannot have a Facebook account. Speciesism!!), you’ll quickly find whomever you knew that had an account. Of course things were quite different in 2006/7, where next-to-nobody had an account on Facebook.
Google Plus, by contrast, leverages on existing Google Accounts — anyone with a Gmail account can register for Google Plus (or could, if the beta was still open at the time of writing), and everybody with a Gmail account on your contact list (stored by Google!) will be immediately available for being added to one or more of your “Circles” (that’s how Google Plus calls a grouping of friends) — that’s why it’s so easy to see a lot of activity right from the very beginning. You can obviously also search for friends using Yahoo or Hotmail and still add more people to your Circles, but the secret of Google Plus’ immediate success is that existing accounts will be immediately available and are incredibly easy to add. Relationships are not bi-directional, as expected — someone who lists you as a Friend can be safely ignored, or, if you wish, can be placed on one or more Circles, but that’s up to you. You can also share your content with just a person (or even just yourself), a whole Circle, several Circles, “friends of friends” (i.e. people on your friends’ Circles), and even the whole audience of Google Plus. A spamming feature exists that allows you to push shared content by email to anyone not registered to Google Plus but already on your Gmail/Yahoo/Hotmail contact list (turning this off is not trivial; I expect this aspect of the interface to be reviewed soon, as the spamming is specially annoying since you currently cannot register for Google+ and are kept drooling with all the amount of information shared there which you don’t have access to — except by getting spammed all the time).
Interface for the second decade of the third millenium
After you get overwhelmed by the amount of information is being shared by all your friends, the next thing that will immediately capture your attention is the interface. Overall, like all Google mainstream products, Google Plus has the usual super-clean, minimalistic design that has been their hallmark since the new millenium. But the interface clearly has a nice twist: adding friends to circles is clearly meant to be used on a tablet. Rick Falkvinge immediately spotted this on his most excellent article (thanks to Tateru Nino for the link):
The contrast is striking and stunning as you toy around with Google Plus and everything is manipulated using symbols that you drag around on screen for real-time interactions and very few buttons. The interface is slick, intuitive and unlike anything on Facebook.
This is for tablets.
Yup: this is tablets. In large and small form factors, from phone to pad. Connected, mobile tablets. Google is not building this for 2008, it’s being built to hit a moving target in 2013. We’re coming there quickly. In contrast, Facebook already feels old with its keyboard-based entry fields everywhere.
While the launch of Google Plus just before the big US holiday was by no means a coincidence, I believe it wasn’t a coincidence either that it predates by a few weeks the launch of Apple’s new Mac OS X Lion, which builds upon the experience that Apple got from designing the touch-screen interface for the first iPhone and which was pretty much copied on every modern smartphone and tablet out there. What this means is that by late July a number of people bigger than the amount of users that Facebook has will be immediately familiar with an interface that is all about dragging boxes around and clicking large buttons and which feels so completely different than, say, Facebook, that it will be a pain to get back to the way websites were designed for mouse-based point-and-click-and-never-figure-out-the-right-option navigation model of five years ago.
This is very clever. Of course smartphone/applet application designers are familiar with the new interface design models; and more application developers will need to adapt to this new model that will become standard on every product launched by Apple (including laptops, desktops, and workstations running Mac OS X Lion). But the prominent web-based application that already uses that model will be Google Plus — it will immediately have a huge edge over Facebook’s own model, which, on a small screen like my iPhone’s, is a pain to navigate (Twitter, clearly based on the text messaging paradigm of mobile phones, is so much more useful on a small touch screen) and doesn’t capture the whole spirit of actually using Facebook. Matthew Panzarino already believes that Google+ is the killer app for Android tablets. It might be, or not; and a fully-featured iOS port might also become a potential “killer app” on the iOS platform too, making Apple very, very angry with Google (if I were Larry Page, I wouldn’t resist pissing off Steve Jobs that way 🙂 ).
Now of course Zuckerberg will not be sleeping over this. The issue is how fast he can redesign the whole of Facebook to have a slick, modern interface and actually compete head-to-head with the Google giant…
Oh my. I’ve just done it: Google Plus is not even on open beta and I’m postulating how Facebook is going to compete with it 🙂 Shouldn’t it be the other way round? 🙂
After all, it looks like everybody hates Facebook
What happened in the past few days? Taking into account that most Americans are enjoying their holidays, that the registrations are tightly closed, and that the real analysis will only be published in a few weeks, at least when Google opens up registrations again, and hopefully releases their developer API (also make sure you vote on this poll!), it was striking to see how many hundreds (thousands?) of articles about Google Plus have flooded the blogosphere.
Even just writing a short summary of all aspects covered in the past few days is a daunting challenge. What striked me most was really how much people have been hating Facebook in the past. I’m part of a tiny group that has always been quite unhappy with Facebook — a group that is so tiny that I’ve always been delighted when I found a twin soul by chance! There are tons of reasons for that, but the biggest one, of course, is how Facebook, after announcing how Russian-based Digital Sky Technologies has done a big investment in them — DST, in turn, having a huge slice owned by the Russian Mafia capo Alisher Usmanov — all of a sudden reversed their 2006 policies of allowing pretty much everybody to register for an account, and now demand “real” accounts, to the point of requiring proof of identity by forcing people to upload copies of their ID cards, passports, or equivalent documents just to keep their accounts open. More than 20,000 accounts are closed by Facebook every day — all of them “fake” accounts (in the sense that their owners refused to provide a valid ID), spammers, and “illegitimate content” (which pretty much covers the whole range of adult content and copyrighted images). 20 million users left Facebook in 2010 for one reason or the other, and more will probably be kicked out of the service this year. Even if Google hadn’t done nothing, Facebook’s growth would have stalled, as the number accounts that gets deleted is close to the number of new accounts. That’s not bad by itself — a market of profiling data for 700 million users is immensely attractive — but it certainly shows a trend: to jump to a new level, Facebook just has to come up with something new, and having a restrictive policy is not a good idea to open up their platform to even more users. Seriously, who wants to give their sensitive ID card to the Russian Mafia? Not me!
The rest of the issues I have with Facebook are relatively minor and really very personal, so they will not apply to everybody. I don’t find much value in Facebook, to be honest. It’s not that I’m against social networking tools, but I classify them under the label of entertainment, not business. They’re fun if you happen to have fun friends to interact with; but compared to the level of entertainment and interaction you can have in Second Life — or real life! — they’re worth nothing. Facebook and their ilk have a big advantage, which is the ability to cross geographical barriers very easily. But Facebook is terrible to find anything worthwhile. It’s “all on the spur of the moment”. Once something gets posted, there is no way to figure where it is again. The data is still archived (and being profiled!) by Facebook’s servers, but there is no way to get it back — not even via Google’s search engine. So it’s very appealing to people with short attention spans, or for people just wishing a bit of activity for a while and quickly forgetting about everything else, but useless for anything else. Twitter has lots of limitations, but at least you have a single timeline where everything gets posted, so, even though it takes some time, you might be able to find that special link you’ve been endlessly looking for. No, honestly, if I need to recall something that someone has said to me, I prefer mail — specially fully searchable mail like Google Mail provides, but I’ll be happy with the much more limited searching features of Apple Mail. Or even web-based Squirrelmail. All of them have an archiving purpose. You might claim that social networking is not about data retrieval, but quasi-real-time interaction, but I would disrespectfully disagree: any application that claims to be an “email killer” will have to address the issue about storage, classification, and retrieval of information — because that’s the serious use of email. Sure, gazillions of people (specially the younger generation, but not all of them are youngsters) just use email to share links, videos, jokes, and silly slideshows, and for them, Facebook is a far better replacement. But that’s not the only use of email.
A few friends of mine have tried to do “serious interaction” with companies with Facebook Pages. What they found out is that their complaints were often ignored — or, worse, deleted. It makes sense: just like most corporate sites (not the corporate blogs) don’t allow comments, because most companies are not so interested in hearing their customers replying back, they also are unwilling to get complaints by Facebook. The difference is that it’s so easy to delete a Facebook message or comment. Emails, by contrast, can have some authority behind them — in my country, a digitally-signed email (using a cryptographic key that is inside any Citizen’s digital ID card) is as valid as a letter sent by snail mail. Sure, you can claim that you never received the email — but you can also try to claim never to have read a registered snail mail letter either, but it would never be accepted in court. Facebook messages, however, can be very simply ignored — and since the system is under Zuckerberg’s control under a specific legislation, you would have no choice to prove you’ve sent the message.
When publicly discussing this, most of my acquaintances tend to shrug it off. They say that Facebook is not for “serious business” anyway. But in that case I’ll have to point out that web marketeers are saying precisely the contrary. Some even go as far as suggesting that organisations pretty much forget about their corporate sites and just interact with their users on Facebook. And a lot do exactly that: the “transition phase” is to have corporate messages or the corporate blog pushing content into a Facebook Page (via Notes or the Wall) and then drop the corporate site altogether, and just stick to Facebook Pages. They claim — very correctly — that ads on Facebook can immediately target a lot of potential customers who are closely data-mined by Facebook, while on one’s own corporate site, it means doing it all with external tools, some of which can be very expensive, and rarely provide the sheer amount of data that Facebook is able to provide. So, yes, Facebook is also being “sold” as a corporate-grade product. But it has a kindergarten-style, naive approach to what businesses actually need — except for profiling data, which Facebook is extremely good at extracting.
Even freelancers are “businesses” — not just megacorps. I used to get the occasional job request on Facebook, too — even though my email address is publicly posted on a billion places, some people, jumping onto the Facebook bandwagon, preferred to use Facebook as a means to reach me. That’s all very fun, but I quickly lose track of who sent me a message. And since Zuckerberg can delete accounts at will, I have no idea how many lost opportunities I have missed since then. By contrast, email is under my control. Sure, I redirect my email to Gmail, but that’s my choice. If Google suddenly deletes my account tomorrow, I would not lose a single message — because I have backups of all of them, since 2004, on my laptop. I would just point my address elsewhere, and after a small hiccup, I would continue to be in touch. With some of my professional accounts, I don’t rely on Gmail exclusively — I keep a secondary mail server on stand-by with duplicates of all messages. If Gmail fails, or if by any chance I get kicked out of Google, I can just point my mail application to the secondary server and pick up from where I left. More to the point: I can search on my mail account, no matter where it is currently hosted.
I agree that these are, for most people, very minor issues. Even though Facebook’s security policy has been often criticized, the other points are seldom mentioned. Overall, the whole world — specially the tech and marketing world — has been praising Facebook as the best thing since sliced bread. Nobody really cares that Facebook only made a tiny profit in 2009 — less than Linden Lab — although 2010 seemed to have been a rather good year, even though Zuckerberg is not concerned about profit. Well, I’m old-fashioned. In this age when we question the whole financial model that builds upon virtual expectations of what a company is worth, having the actual ability to put a good, solid idea into a profitable model is, for me at least, very important. Facebook constantly valuates itself by selling slices of the company at absurdly high prices and thus driving the expectation of its worth to sky-rocketing heights. In that, they’re not different from many other companies, of course, but it’s a cheap trick… selling ads, of course, is another story. But, again, most analysts on the digital media pretty much shrug off the “dirty money talk” and just praise how valuable Facebook is for companies leveraging their online strategies. I subscribe to several marketing newsletters which all sell pretty much the same story. And as I usually tell my close friends, Facebook’s real success, just like Twitter’s, comes mostly from journalists — it’s far easier to spend all the time logged in to Facebook or Twitter to get ideas for articles (coming from shared links and conversations between colleagues and peers) and then justify all the time spent on “social networking” by publishing articles saying how cool “social networking” actually is. Editors love it, because more social networking used that way means paying less for commercial newsfeeds from Reuters or Associated Press, and that saves costs, so obviously articles related to Facebook (or Twitter) will be better — which, in turn, encourages more journalists to try it out and write articles on their own. This generates a huge, explosive growth of promotional articles — and social networking marketeers, looking for the “Next Best Thing” to push to their clients, will obviously love to point them to a wealth of information about the wonderful world of social networking.
So how can the trend of the past few days be explained? When both Twitter and Facebook were young, and MySpace was already fading into the background, articles about “social networking” were far more interesting. Since both services were seen as direct competitors, and Facebook quickly grew to match Twitter’s userbase and since then left them far behind, the discussion was centred around which model made more sense. Facebook had far more features already — and Twitter faced constant scaling problems — and they all of a sudden introduced the “Like” button. There was a clear winner. Without any real, serious competitor, all minds turned suddenly to Facebook as “the new Internet”, and the past few years have seen little disagreement on that. Perhaps only this past year I started to read more and more articles about how video streaming ads were slowly catching up and becoming important again; even Google’s YouTube seemed finally to make a profit (not to mention Hulu) — allegedly, income from video ads on popular streaming services are already more important than most types of Web-based ads, except for search-based ads, which are by far the largest source of income (mostly for Google, of course). However, video is still not widely accessible to most (small) companies — it’s still far too expensive to design a compelling video ad when compared with a tiny ad with a simple picture on either Facebook or Google AdSense.
My own surprise came mostly from seeing all of a sudden an incredible amount of bashing on Facebook’s design and business model. For years analysts and bloggers have been silent about both. The praise of Facebook’s success (which is undeniable!) has disappeared from the blogosphere in a pinch; and this during a US holiday where most of the blogosphere’s audience cannot even log in to Google Plus to see what the buzz is about. A product in now-closed-again beta, in spite of its many flaws and quirks, is already seen as a potential Facebook killer and the next-best mobile application to swamp the market. Facebook is “already” gone the way of MySpace, Friendster, and others (that nobody remembers any more), and all this with just a humble beta version. Sure, it’s a very impressive beta version, but nothing is worth being so overhyped just after a few days of a short glimpse of its potential.
I dread the day when Google Plus truly opens the Beta to the mainstream audience and announces the Developer API and starts placing ads (yes, of course, ads; Google needs that income). I guess that the Internet will come to a standstill. And there will be a rush to those keyboards, as millions of journalists and marketeers, who have been overhyping Facebook for the past five years, all start to yell the Google mantra and whistling a requiem for Facebook.
Well, it’s incredibly early for that!
My thought is that Google will leverage on a few things that they did “right” with Google Plus. First of all, it will be very easy to expand the existing ad network to yet another service, and this will please current Google ad customers: they will have yet another place to push their ads. Google will make many of their advertisers happy that way. Secondly, I can imagine that the mobile blogosphere will be incredibly excited about how Google has brought a tablet-like interface to their new service, and point out that if Google is doing that, hundreds of millions of tablet and smartphone users cannot be so wrong. So the mobile market will love Google Plus. Thirdly, Google’s way of dealing with integration APIs is naturally raising expectations with the developer community, which will pretty much integrate everything with Google Plus. Next comes the explosion of “+1” buttons everywhere, and, most importantly, they will finally make a difference in the way search results are ranked. This will be very closely watched by SEO specialists, which will then recommend their clients to stop buying ads on Facebook and placing “Like” buttons everywhere, but focus instead on getting “+1” buttons, since those will drive their rankings higher. Now it’s only at this stage where things will really start to become interesting, and I expect that this won’t happen in a year or even two — marketeers and SEO consultants have slowly built up their client portfolio, and touting Facebook as the place to be for many years now, so, at first, they will just recommend being on both places at the same time. Google Plus will need a massive, exponential growth (which is not impossible; after all, they can start with 200 million accounts…) to avoid the Microsoft vs. Apple comparison (“who wants to develop for a Mac, it has no users…” “yes, but it’s a more valuable company than Microsoft!” “who cares?”), and I don’t know if even Google is able to get such a massive amount of new users in such a short time frame. Finally, they will have a positive spin on the news because of their “old-fashioned” attitude to privacy and security on the Internet: Google was always “old school” regarding privacy, and their internal culture still reflects the idea that “on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog“, while Facebook’s Zuckerberg subscribes to the “privacy is dead” philosophy. This will give the journalists the pretext to finally publish all those articles about stolen identities, stalking users via their Facebook posts, and all sorts of nastinesses that the Russian Mafia is doing with Facebook’s profiling data, which will only please Google.
So, a year or two from now, we’ll know who will “win”. 700 million users don’t disappear overnight (even by deleting 20,000 users per day will take a decade until they’re all gone 🙂 ). Facebook has that amount of time to either reverse their policies or, more likely, to completely redesign their interface. And, who knows, Microsoft might all of a sudden rise from the ashes again. If there was only Facebook to beat, it might have been impossible for new players to enter the market. If Google Plus seriously threatens Facebook, Microsoft — who has an ad-serving technology and a rather good search engine and more accounts on Hotmail/Live than Google on Gmail, plus lots of social networking tools in their portfolio — might just think that launching Windows 8 or 9 with a tablet-like interface and a new “Live Plus” social networking site that works as well as Google Plus on the Android is a good idea and that there is still a chance to compete in this market.