You’ve probably already heard this, the news has been out since it was leaked over the weekend. My understanding is that Facebook and Google+ will continue to be separate entities just like they are now for several months, but over time groups of users will be transferred over to the new combined service until everyone is on it. It is not clear how new subscribers will be handled. Individuals will first be given the chance to opt into the new combined system but then if they don’t after a few weeks they’ll get switched over automatically.
The new service will be called Facebook Plus in deference to the priority of Facebook but with reference to the added features from Google, according to project manager Noel Godin:
We are very excited about Facebook Plus. It will be blue, like Facebook, but it will have Circles much like Google+. Facebook friends will be automatically sorted into G+ circles, and for people with both accounts, the photo streams of both services will be combined, with image recognition automatically deleting the lower quality version of any apparently similar images.
Users will still be able to chose an icon to represent themselves on their home page and posts or comments, but the larger banner image used now by both services will be supplied by Facebook Plus, chosen from the user’s photo streams but modified in some cases to include additional information about products or services. This is meant to help pay for the merger.
Following on recent announcements about changes to the “timeline” by Facebook, future “status” updates will be done very differently in Facebook Plus. All status updates will combine text and images. The text will be converted over to a large readable font and imprinted on the associated images. For status updates that are only text, an image will be supplied, and visa versa.
Again, from Godin:
Everything on the internet is already a meme pretty much already. F+ will automatically memify your text-only status updates by adding your text to an image determined by our new “thought recognition” system, which identifies the mood or meaning of a string of text in most languages. If the user puts up just the image, the same system essentially works in reverse, and will supply an appropriate aphorism for the image. The new “Plus Stream” … the chimera of the Facebook Timeline and the Google Plus post stream, will be called “The Meme Stream” and will consist of nothing more or less than a series of compressed Jpeg files 345 pixels wide, but of varying length.
Over time, but according to reports, not right away, everyone’s old status updates will be converted accordingly.
There is also a new pricing structure. The service will be free for everyone to use, but the number of “buddies” (the new term that subsumes “friend” and “circled person”) that will be able to see a given item in your Meme Stream will be limited to five randomly chosen among your list. If you want more people to see your posts, you can pay a nominal fee. The pricing structure will be on some sort of as yet unannounced sliding scale, but some sources put the rate at about 100 buddies for 10 cents, or 250 randomly chosen people on the service who are not your buddies for the same price.
Facebook Plus also introduces a new Counter Meme feature. You can elect to not see the posts of certain users even if they have “buddied” you. Also, certain categories of memes can be hidden from your Meme Stream by … and yes, many Facebook users are getting something they’ve longed for here … “unliking” enough similar memes. Again, users will have a limited number of “unlikes,” perhaps five or so a day, but can purchase additional unlikes by using a pre-stored credit card number. Also, there will be a special circle you can put individuals in, and if enough different users put the same people in this category of circle (it’s called the “jerk circle”) then all the individuals who jerk circled the jerks are immune to the jerk’s memes, but everyone else has to pay extra to hide them.
We are going for a free market of love and hate. Mostly hate, though. If someone starts to jerk-out, as it were, those first on the bus to react and circle the jerk win, everyone else on the internet loses. Some of us think this is our coolest feature.
The transition is expected to start mid April. Since today is April 1st, that gives everybody about 2 weeks to prepare.