Which social media site do you use?
It's a silly question, of course - modern internet users would never confine themselves to just one social platform. Each one excels at something different; for example, we use Facebook to stay in touch with our friends, while Twitter is the best way to keep track of your favourite celebrities. LinkedIn is strictly for business, while Google+ communities are a great way of finding people with the same hobbies as you.
This seems like a pretty good system to us, but the biggest names in social media have other ideas. Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus...each one wants to be the social network, and all of them have recently been attempting to expand their horizons and give us everything we could possibly need. Here's how social media moguls seem to be thinking right now:
"If I give them hashtags and trending topics," Mark Zuckerberg reasoned, "they won't need to leave my website to check Twitter! I'll be the King of the Internet!"
This attitude has resulted in a massive online arms race, with everyone plagiarising everyone else's features in a bid to be the one site that really does have everything. It's hard to say whether or not this is a good thing; we are getting some cool new features out of the ongoing social skirmish, but a lot of people liked Twitter (for example) the way it was, and a lot of these changes have gone down like lead balloons.
If you're not entirely sure what we're talking about, here are three features that social media sites have copied from each other recently:
Trends & Hashtags
Who did it first? Twitter, of course - the microblogging site has been utilising hashtags for years. They've been used for serious purposes (like tracking new stories as they develop) and silly purposes (adding a sarcastic bit of commentary to the end of a tweet), but no matter how you use 'em, they'll always be associated with Twitter first and foremost.
Who else is doing it? Pretty much everyone, although Facebook are the most notable plagiarists here. In fairness, everybody was using hashtags in their FB posts anyway, so it's hard to blame ol' Zuckers for appropriating Twitter's big idea; it's much easier to point the finger at him for Facebook's recently-introduced 'Trending' section, which actually goes one better than Twitter's 'Trends' by including a snippet of information about each trending topic.
Handy, although we can only imagine how many people had Game of Thrones spoiled for them by that little white box in the corner.
Who did it first? Google+ has allowed users to upload cover photos since it launched in 2011. Facebook weren't far behind, rolling out the cover photo in September of the same year. Either way, it certainly wasn't Twitter's idea.
Who else is doing it? Yep, that little blue bird and its evil overlords can take just as good as they give. Roughly one year after Facebook first allowed its users to add cover photos, Twitter starting doing more or less the exact same thing.
More recently, Twitter's layout was radically changed, putting a lot more focus on the cover photo (or 'header photo', as Twitter would have you call it). This was met with a lot of criticism - wasn't Twitter supposed to be about fitting everything into 140 characters? Why the sudden focus on adding images?
Dragging & Dropping
Who did it first? Again, we're pretty sure that Google+ can claim the bragging rights here. A lot of people were reluctant to embrace The Big G's social network when it first materialised online, but if there's one thing that won people over (including the Designer Websites team), it's the site's superbly sleek functionality, epitomised by the way in which you can simply drag images and other items straight into your posts.
Who else is doing it? Almost everybody, although we certainly aren't complaining about this one. You can now drag and drop images into tweets and Facebook updates, just as you can with G+ posts, and it's miles better for everyone (although the functionality is still a little clunky on FB). Now, if only LinkedIn would let us do this as well...
What do you think? Are all social networks too similar nowadays? Should they be sticking to what they each do best? Or are you enjoying all of these changes and new features?
Let us know on Twitter...or Facebook...or Google Plus.