MySpace founder and former president of the social network, Tom Anderson, has cautioned Google against relying too greatly on algorithmic filtering technologies in Google+, suggesting that over-reliance on such systems has left Facebook struggling to compete. In attempting to manage the Google+ “signal to noise” ratio, Anderson writes in a TechCrunch editorial, the search giant could inadvertently kill off the copious interaction that has marked the initial days of the new social network.
As Anderson sees it, Facebook has shifted to an aggressive filtering algorithm so as to prioritize what it believes its users will be most interested in seeing, but simultaneously failed to make clear how more information – or manual controls over that information – can be unlocked by the users themselves. “I post something that used to generate some interaction,” he suggests, “and now I receive almost nothing.”
Facebook has put so much emphasis on the “EdgeRank” algorithm, Anderson argues, that most users only see a fraction of their friends’ content. His fear is that algorithm-obsessed Google could end up doing the same thing with Google+ as the amount of content on the network increases.
“Facebook has tried to find different ways to bring the information users want to them, because the “Circles” concept when implemented at Facebook in 2008 (“Lists”) didn’t work. Facebook has assumed that users can’t handle the overload of information, and that EdgeRank is better than the “Most Recent” option. They’ve downplayed Lists, sorting and Newsfeed “preference” options more and more, so that most users don’t even know they exist.” Tom Anderson
Google+ arguably does need to improve its filtering and viewing systems – just as its Circles approach needs to be boosted to support organizing groups within groups, for instance – but relying too greatly on PageRank-style processes might take too much control away from users. Still, as Anderson himself admits, the search giant has a lot of experience to call upon. “Imagine if G+ could determine the semantic nature of a post, categorize it, and let users follow a subset of topics from a user, instead of an entire feed” he ponders, “e.g. follow Tom’s posts about Google+ and Apple, but not his silly .GIFs.”