The Death of Facebook and iTunes?

Yes, if Google+ and Spotify have anything to say about it

It might as well be National Nerd Month, what with Comic-Con (the great pasty pilgrimage), the launch of Google+, and the release of Spotify in the US. Throw in a picture of scantily clad Katee Sackhoff (or Jamie Bamber) and you have the makings of a dweeb’s wet dream. Most probably know little about Google+ or Spotify—despite their being touted as game-changers. But just how well does Google+ compare to Facebook? Or Spotify to iTunes? I took it upon myself to try them out.

Your mom. That person from the office who always smells out the free food. We’ve all gotten their friend requests on Facebook. We’ve hemmed and hawed. We’ve questioned whether we want our moms to see that one picture. (You know the one. Where you look both simultaneously drunk and high while carrying a plastic flamingo.) With Google+ (, we no longer need to worry.

Using “Circles,” users can control what will be shared with whom. Like only sharing the information for a house warming party with your circles “Friends” and “Family.” Or only sharing the most embarrassing photos with “Close Friends.”

The good

  • Privacy settings are pretty straightforward, including information on limiting account searchability. No Facebook quagmire of links and legalese.
  • With “Circles”, and your control of who sees what, there is no fear in accepting others’ invites. And just because they add you to a circle, doesn’t mean you have to add them. A warning, however, you’ll be able to see who haven’t added you. (I’m frankly a little pissed at the 6 people in my circles, who’ve yet to add me.)
  • Unlike Facebook where you either have to live with a spelling or grammar error or delete the post, in Google+ you can simply click on a drop down button and select “Edit this post.” Also, you can select to “Disable comments” or “Disable reshare.”
  • In “Hangouts,” you and up to 9 people can live video chat. According to the website, you can “chill with friends that are scrolling through the web, just like you!” Which is creepy. This would be better used for several friends or family who live around the country.
  • Designated app available for iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone, and Android platforms.

The bad

  • There’s a bit too much “borrowing” from Facebook. I wish the layout of Google+ was a bit more innovative and the “+1” button didn’t feel like a blatant rip-off of “Like.”
  • Right now only early adopters—mostly men—are using Google+. So be prepared to read a lot of updates from a few nerdy, guy friends.
  • “Sparks.” An underdeveloped, and pointless, feature which is basically news feeds. Once you’ve selected a topic, those topic names appear on the left. Then when you click on each you’ll see recent news stories. Until this feature is better integrated within the site, it is pretty ridiculous.
  • While it is possible to sync posts between Google+ and Facebook accounts, the process may cause most to have to double post.

Verdict: With a few more upgrades and users, Google+ could be a serious contender to Facebook.

Popular in Europe, Spotify—an online music streaming service—is finally available in the U.S. While online music streaming, both legal and illegal, is nothing new in the US, what’s unique is Spotify’s obvious focus on the iTunes market. Using a native application and similar layout to iTunes, Spotify allows subscribers to avoid individual song/album costs, while still able to download to your iPod, iPhone, and Android phone. All at a low, monthly fee.

The good

  • 3 levels of membership, including a free, ad-included subscription. But for only $9.99 a month, the premium membership allows you to create as many playlists as you want which then can be synced with your iPod or MP3 player. My first night of membership, I downloaded 42 albums and synched them to my iPod (which I can listen to offline).
  • Those 42 albums I downloaded to my iPod Touch? Only cost me $9.99 a month. At this premium membership level, users can create as many playlists as they wish and sync with a computer or phone (and be accessible even when without internet access). There is also a free, ad-included level, which currently is invite-only.
  • Integrates both offline and online libraries. Which means, when running Spotify, you can play all of your iTunes songs and playlists.
  • Know what your friends are listening to. Simply search for friends on Spotify and listen to their public playlists. They can even send you tracks/albums they think you might like. Spotify claims that they have 15 million songs.
  • Designated app available for iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone, and Android platforms.

The bad

  • The website states it contains 15 million songs. But through searches, it is clear that this includes multiple versions of the same albums. Additionally, as this is newly launched in the U.S., with countless copyrights to be figured out, there are holes in available songs and artists. The most inexplicable? While Adele’s 21 is available, the song “Rolling in the Deep” is not.
  • Since Spotify does not categorize artists or albums, it’s difficult to find similar artists. While you are provided “Related artists,” this does not have the flexibility of Rhapsody or Pandora.
  • Like Google+ there are only a limited number of U.S. users, so finding other users profiles (specifically friends and family) is difficult. And limited.

Verdict: Those tired of iTunes’ 60-second clips and the necessity of buying tracks will find relief in Spotify. But until more artists are available, it is easier to find other artists, and more users join, iTunes (and Rhapsody) remain ahead.

Follow Aaron Mettey on Twitter @AaroMets. For details on the week’s best events delivered to your inbox every Wednesday, sign up for our A&E and nightlife newsletter, The Weekender.