Industry analysts have suspected that adding Google+ to the social networking mix would force Facebook to up its game. And it looks like that prediction is coming true.
Facebook announced Tuesday that it tweaked its privacy settings, making them more intuitive and more clearly informing users of who will be able to see the posts and links that they put on the site. It's a move that is making Facebook's privacy settings more like those found on new rival Google+.
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And the changes aren't one-sided in this battle of one-upsmanship.
Google this week announced that it has made a few changes to its +1 button. Google reported that when users hover over the +1 button on a Web page or article, it will show them a list of friends and online contacts who already have clicked on it. This makes Google's +1 button a lot like Facebook's Like button.
On Wednesday, Google also noted that it was adding another feature to the +1 button. Google+ users can share Web pages with people in their circles just by clicking the +1 button. When they click on it, they'll be shown a "Share on Google+" option.
"Facebook and Google, as direct competitors, are the best thing that's ever happened to social networking in terms of fueling innovation and improvements," said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group. "When Facebook was the 800-pound gorilla and essentially unchallenged, there wasn't much urgency behind any changes. Now that there's another gorilla in the same cage, it's going to push both companies to go all out to dazzle and satisfy users."
Olds also noted that with Google+ picking up a lot of momentum at the outset, both companies will be quick to upgrade their sites, respond to frustrated users and even steal strong points from their competitor.
"It's pretty widely acknowledged that Google+ has done a better job with privacy than Facebook has, so I would expect Facebook to tweak its privacy settings to fix it," he added. "And Google sees that Facebook has a quick and easy way to rate things, so they spiff up their +1 button. We're going to see a lot of this type of activity."
Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group, said this kind of heated competition will force a leapfrogging effect that will only benefit users, who will get new features and more attention to their gripes.