Google+ vs. Facebook: browser wars part 2?

By Razib Khan | July 6, 2011 2:17 am

There’s an amusing story up at The New York Times on the activity surrounding Mark Zuckerberg’s Google+ account. Zuckerberg is of course just scoping out the competition. Here’s the heartening part:

So far, Google’s new social service has generated positive comments from those with early access, in a turnabout from Google’s earlier attempts to woo the masses with social services like Wave and Buzz, which were met with lackluster responses and concerns over privacy.

Stephen Shankland, a writer for the technology news service CNet, said that Circles, a feature that lets people sort their friends into groups for more private sharing, was “the biggest improvement, far and away, over Facebook.” Adam Pash, a blogger at Lifehacker, described the service’s Hangout feature, which lets people video chat with as many as 10 friends simultaneously, as “the best free video chat we’ve seen.”

Even Tom Anderson, a co-founder of MySpace who was famous for being every MySpace user’s first “friend,” weighed in on his Google+ page, saying the service “does seem like it could take a bite out of Twitter.”

“We’re in the early days of making the Web more social, and there are opportunities for innovation everywhere,” said Jonny Thaw, a spokesman for the company.

Remember the “browser wars” of the late 1990s? To a great extent they were a media concoction. They gave rise both to “Netscape Time,” and the bloated piece of junk which was the Netscape Communicator of 1998. And yet the competition did push innovation and create a better product for the consumer. This was clear in the early 2000s when Internet Explorer had a de facto monopoly, and the browser and the web went into a period of technological stagnation. The emergence of Firefox woke Microsoft from its slumber, though at this point it might never catch up on the non-mobile web. The newest version of IE is alright, but IE share of the market keeps declining.

MORE ABOUT: Facebook, Google, Netscape
  • Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor)

    You implying that Facebook’s social-network monopoly caused a period of technological stagnation, now upset by G+? Interesting, hadn’t really thought about it that way. I guess the organizational imperative for FB these past few years has been on monetizing, not innovating. One advantage Google has in fighting over social is that they have the search cash cow — they can take the long-term view on making money from social.

  • Razib Khan

    You implying that Facebook’s social-network monopoly caused a period of technological stagnation, now upset by G+?

    well, the few ppl i know who’ve worked (interned) at FB were not impressed by the engineering culture there (the poor implementation of some of the features rolled out made a lot more sense after talking to them). and in fact, it isn’t as if myspace was an engineering driven firm either. so they really haven’t faced consistent and successful pressure from an engineering firm like google. FB has been relatively self-directed as opposed to response (aside from their privacy mess-ups, which were probably just testing the waters anyway).

    One advantage Google has in fighting over social is that they have the search cash cow — they can take the long-term view on making money from social.

    necessary, but obviously not sufficient. if so, M$ would have been able to muscle into all sorts of domains in the 2000s which it couldn’t make headway on. that being said, when large corporations start to compete we should see consistent gains in efficiencies and continuous incremental improvements. evolution rather than revolution.

  • DK

    bloated piece of junk which was the Netscape Communicator of 1998

    A normal evolutionary path of everything in today’s software. Firefox is a bloated piece of junk today. It started as a small and nimble browser and stayed this way up to a version 2. Version 3.5 that I have now, with mere 7 tabs opened, takes 183 MB of RAM, which is ridiculous because it is almost 1.5X more than what the entire operating system uses (slimmed down XP). It also loads quite comparably to the OS, at around 1 min. (Version 4 was even worse and was deleted after few days).

    And Google is just as evil as MS used to be. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

  • Chris

    Hm, unbelievable that people bitch about a program (Firefox in this case) using 183 MB. Even on a modest 4 gb machine, that represents a paltry 4.5% of RAM. With fairly common 8 GB configuration these days, it’s an even more miniscule fraction. Firefox 5 runs zippy and consumes reasonable resources even on my work computer (old and slow with only 2 gb ram)

  • eumm

    I don’t know what the fuss is all about, I’m sticking with Gsick

  • Emil


    You don’t seem to think about it like this: Firefox continues to adapt their browser to the modern computer. Of course, if one then looks at an old version, it requires less computer power but that is exactly because it was made for slower computers. Firefox 4 (and 5 etc.) are made for modern computers. Using 331 MB RAM for 7 tabs (Gmail, Google+, Facebook, A wallpaper site, IMDB, this site and Amazon) is not bad, this is what my Firefox 4 currently uses. Most modern computers have at least 2 GB RAM with the exception being netbooks. Mine has 8GB. If one is using a netbook, one should not go for the latest version of Firefox but something more light weight.

  • Luke Lea

    I keep returning to Opera as the fastest and most flexible browser, with Chrome as my 2nd choice. Firefox, which I’ve tried repeatedly, never yields much satisfaction. Maybe I don’t know how to use it.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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