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Google+ vs. Facebook

Ever since Google+ became public, there has been much speculation about whether or not it can surpass Facebook as the most popular social network. Although both sites have their merits, the most significant difference I noticed was the way people are allowed to add friends.

One topic we covered in class was a directed vs. undirected edge. In graph theory, an undirected edge implies a symmetric relationship; if in a network person A and person B are connected by an edge, this means that person A knows person B AND person B knows person A. A directed edge does not imply symmetry – just because person A knows person B does not mean person B knows person A. For example, many people know who a celebrity is but that celebrity does not necessarily know all his fans. If they were connected by a network, this would be a directed edge.

Facebook operates using undirected edges; before one can acquire a ‘friend’, the other must approve this request. Thus, a person’s friends on Facebook are all undirected edges. However, on Google+, each user can add whoever they want regardless of whether or not they know who they are adding. If one were to draw a Google+ network, it would look a lot different than the Facebook network. Google+ allows people to expand their circles a little wider than Facebook, thus allowing networks that probably wouldn’t be connected on Facebook to be connected.

Whether this new approach is good or bad is really up for interpretation – while I do enjoy the fact that Facebook allows more user privacy, I might be willing to sacrifice a little bit of my personal space so I can stalk a little better.


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October 2011