By MALUM NALU
Three years ago, in May 2008, EMTV featured Facebook on its popular Sunday night news programme, 60 Minutes, introducing thousands of Papua New Guineans to this website that is taking the world by storm.
But now, Facebook’s reign on the throne may be coming undone, thanks to Google’s new kid on the block social networking site Google+, which can currently only be accessed by invite.
Back in May 1988, more than 60 million people were on Facebook around the world, and by the end of that year it was 200 million.
The New York Times had declared it Google's biggest attempt to rival the social network Facebook, which had over 750 million users in 2011.
In May 2008, very few Papua New Guineans were on Facebook, unlike today when there are thousands of people with their own pages, with the very-easy accessibility to Internet these days and the wide variety of mobile devices.
I remember when I first joined in 2008; there were only a handful of Papua New Guineans, mainly students studying overseas.
All you have to do is set up a profile page about yourself.
From there you can swap news and photos with friends, track down old acquaintances, and even play long-distance Scrabble.
It can be a very useful tool, or an addictive time-waster.
Either way, Facebook has created an Internet revolution.
It's now a multi-billion dollar business, the creation of one very young, very geeky computer whiz-kid, 26-year-old Mark Zuckerberg.
Local IT expert, Charlie Gilichibi of Nasfund, estimates that as of July 19, there were more than 41,000 PNG users of Facebook with the number growing every day.
“To get 1,500 to 2,000 Papua New Guineans going to Facebook every two weeks is truly an astounding phenomenon,” he says.
“At, this rate one can extrapolate that by 2015, we will have 100,000 Papua New Guineans on online social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
“Truly exciting times for PNG and let’s keep the momentum going playing our part in developing the ICT ecosystem in our country.”
But now, the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have hit back at Zuckerberg with their own social networking site Google+.
Google+ (pronounced and sometimes written Google Plus, sometimes abbreviated as G+) is a social networking service operated by Google Inc.
The service launched on June 28, 2011 in an invite-only "field testing" phase.
The following day, existing users were allowed to invite friends, who are above 18 years of age, to the service to create their own accounts.
This was suspended the next day due to an "insane demand" for accounts.
Last weekend, a friend in Australia, David Fellows, invited me to test-drive Google+ and I was hooked after all the lack of privacy, swearing, and gossip, bastardised English, false names and sophomoric effusions of young Papua New Guineans on Facebook.
Google+ integrates social services such as Google Profiles and Google Buzz, and introduces new services Circles, Hangouts, Sparks, and Huddles.
Google+ will also be available as a desktop application and as a mobile application, but only on Android and iOS operating systems.
On July 14, 2011, Google announced that Google+ had reached 10 million users just two weeks after it was launched in a "limited" trial phase.
After less than a day of being live, the Google+ iPhone app has the number one free spot in the Apple app store.
After three weeks in operation, it has already reached 20 million users.
· "Circles" enables users to organise contacts into groups for sharing, across various Google products and services. Although other users can view a list of people in a user's collection of circles, they cannot view the names of those circles. The privacy settings also allow users to hide the users in their circles as well as who have them in their circle. Organisation is done through a drag-and-drop interface. This system replaces the typical friends’ list function used by sites such as Facebook;
· "Hangouts" are places used to facilitate group video chat (with a maximum of 10 people participating in a single Hangout at any point in time). However, anyone on the web could potentially join the "Hangout" if they happen to possess the unique URL of the Hangout;
· "Huddle" is a feature available to Android, iPhone, and SMS devices for communicating through instant messaging within circles;
· "Instant Upload" is specific to Android mobile devices; it stores photos or video in a private album for sharing later;
· "Sparks" is a front-end to Google Search, enabling users to identify topics they might be interested in sharing with others; "featured interests" sparks are also available, based on topics others globally are finding interesting.Sparks helps to keep users posted on the latest updates on the topics of their interest;
· In the "Stream," users see updates from those in their circles. The input box allows users to enter a status update or use icons to upload and share photo and videos. The Stream can be filtered to show only posts from specific Circles;
· Google+ has a "+1" button to allow people to recommend items;
· Unlike Twitter and Facebook, there is not yet an application programming interface that enables software developers to interact with Google+ programmatically;
· Additionally, Google+ presents the different icons in a graphical or pictorial manner instead of the more commonplace text written icon names;
· Similar to other Google applications, Google+ provides integration with other Google applications like Gmail, Calendar, Documents, etc; and
· A "Data Liberation" option provides the ability to download one's content from Google+.
“Google+ lets you arrange your friends into groups,” comments local IT expert Gilichibi.
“Like one doesn't want others to see their conversation between family members, their social friends etc.
“Facebook is an open platter without much privacy for your different circle of friends.
“Google+ is still project in progress and has only given access to 10 million test users.
“Already, there are raging reviews about Google+ and it seems very likely to push Facebook to cling to every one of its users as those users mean a lot to Facebook's advertising dollars which run into the billions.”