If we are to believe recent rumors, Google is, again, trying to take a bite at Facebook. And social networking at large. Pete Cashmore of Mashable thinks it is good for consumers as it gives us more choice. Especially when privacy concerns hit. You can head over to the CNN post to read about his thoughts.
Here’s why I think Google will be in social networking sooner rather than later whether ‘Google Me’ is a rumor or not.
Social networking is not new for Google. They have been at it since January 2004 when Orkut was launched. However, if you have been following Orkut over the past 5-6 years it is not difficult to notice the evident lack of innovation in the service vis-à-vis other Google products/services. The only innovation that I can remember was an attempt to copy the Facebook News Feed. All it achieved was to make the user interface even more awful.
Clearly Google wasn’t really interested in Orkut too much and let it remain kind of a hobby project.
Google Buzz was different. This time Google was really interested in tapping the social graph. This time they just succeeded in generating a lot of privacy backlash.
Algorithms may be the right way to approach the solution to search at the moment, but definitely not social networking.
But how long will algorithms be the only way to drive search as well? How long into the future anyways?
Especially with Facebook’s ‘Like’ button proliferating and 500 million users worldwide sharing links on the network directly, or by hooking it up to Twitter, there is a lot of user recommended links out on the web. Users who you know and trust. Backed up by others in your social graph.
And 500 million is like more than a quarter (28%) of the entire internet population (1.8 billion – Source). That’s a lot of real recommendations. Not an algorithm counting links and deciding the right result for you. And Facebook is not slowing down.
So, at least theoretically, Facebook could churn out better search results than Google. And by extension, more targeted ads given they have access to personal data as well. Which essentially means that more people will head to Facebook for information instead of going to Google. Difficult to imagine? At least in the UK, social networks received more visits than search engines in May 2010.
This is a threat to Google’s primary source of revenue. Ads. So they cannot afford to stay away from the social networking business for too long. If not for getting users to switch, at least to slow down Facebook’s growth.
It isn’t any longer a matter of whether ‘Google Me’ is real. It is the simple matter of when Google enters the social networking business for good.
[image: Flickr/Butch Lebo]