What Facebook should learn from Google+, and vice versa

Google Plus vs Facebook

Google Plus vs Facebook

I know I rag on Facebook a fair bit. But last week, I was reminded of one of the features of Facebook I actually appreciate (and that they've even improved in the past few years): the birthday reminders.

I got over 70 messages on my Wall wishing me a happy birthday, all of which made me smile. Google+ has some kind of birthday reminder functionality, but I only got one message there, and the feature is clearly lacking in overall integration and usability, since I have yet to see a birthday reminder for any of the people I've circled.

Generally, I'm a fan of Google+ and I wish more of my friends would join me there, but I have to admit that Facebook has some pretty stellar features that would make it better. And, likewise, Google+ has some features that would really improve the Facebook experience.

Facebook features Google+ needs

  • Better integration across the web. I mean, it's Google. I'd rather log in to most sites with my Google account than my Facebook one, since I feel I have better control over who sees my activity. But so far, Facebook remains the champion of alternate logins.
  • Better mobile phone game integration. Most of my mobile phone games connect me to friends via Facebook (because that's where they are), but given how fast and loose Facebook plays with privacy controls, I'd feel much better connecting to friends via Google+.
  • Better event planning tools. Oh man, the Google+ event planning tools are BROKEN. First of all, you shouldn't be able to invite a brand page to an event, but Google+ allows this. Secondly, it seems to default to inviting everyone you've circled, which is also not cool. The Facebook event planning experience is overall very tidy, with the exception of the fact that 75% of the people invited usually don't respond to invitations.
  • Groups functionality. I do like being able to form private groups on Facebook and use those for communicating, sending polls, sharing documents, and planning events. I bet Google+ could improve on this as well. (And I'd be surprised if it wasn't already in the works, with the combination of Circles and Google Drive document sharing and GChat.)

Google+ features Facebook needs

  • Better, more obvious audience segmentation. "Circles" are where Google+ really shines. Facebook has audience segmentation, but they've really buried the feature (it's especially tricky to figure out where to add or edit friend lists), and it's all too easy to post stuff to the wrong group on Facebook, particularly with the mobile app. Google+, meanwhile, puts it right in your face - you know who your posts will be shown to, because you're invited to select the appropriate circles every time you post.
  • Hiding comments and "Likes" from friends, or at least giving us the option to. This is my biggest pet peeve of Facebook's. I generally don't care what my friends "like" or comment on, and I'm a bit uncomfortable with broadcasting my like/comment activity to all my friends. Google+ makes the experience about posts, not comments/likes, and I appreciate that.
  • Less visual clutter. Yes, I know the ads have to go somewhere, and all things considered they're not terribly intrusive, but with multiple menus on the left combined with the ticker (which is now, mercifully, collapsable) and chat, you end up with a 4-column layout of fairly tiny text.
  • A better mobile app. The Facebook mobile app is a frustrating one - you can't delete or edit posts, but you can with the Google+ app.
  • Better video chat integration. I heard Facebook chatting up this feature awhile back, but it's easy to forget it exists. I think it almost needs to be pulled out as a separate feature, like Google does with Hangouts.

And one feature they both need

  • An unfiltered, chronological timeline. So many users have voiced this need with Facebook, it's pretty much cliché at this point. But Facebook's continued insistence that it knows what we want better than we do in this regard is a prime example of their disconnect with their audience. (For a wonderful rant about this, check out this post.) But I think Google+ could use some help here, too. I'm sure their algorithm is more sophisticated than this, but it seems like every time someone comments on an old Google+ post, it jumps to the top of my feed. Why is that necessary? They already have notifications for when somebody adds a comment to a post you commented on, so why also jump the story up? It's confusing.

What did I miss? What other features would help improve either platform?