Revealing Google’s Stealth Social Network Play

This post was collaboratively written on a wiki by Charlene Li, (who’s cross-posted) who maintains a focus on Leadership Strategy and Jeremiah Owyang, who maintains a focus on Customer Strategy. Together, we’re covering the convergence of emerging technologies at the Altimeter Group.

Google has quietly been launching a social network right under our own chins. No, it’s not about Google extending Orkut, a social networking platform they developed a few years ago, or growing Google groups, or even launching their own version of a Twitter. Instead they’ve been releasing small bits of social networking features, little by little. Previously, we’ve made the case that email is already the largest social network, however Google’s plans go beyond Gmail. First, let’s define what to look for, in order to identify what Google is concocting.

Defining Social Networks
To start with, we define a social network as having three baseline components: 1) A profile that contains a person’s information; 2) The ability for people to connect to each other via those profiles, often called a social graph; and 3) the ability to do something useful or valuable they couldn’t have done otherwise. Features such as discoverability or public access are often cited as social network features, but we believe that the common denominators across most social networks are the three characteristics we listed.

Now that we agree on the definition, we can see that Google is launching each of these features with little fanfare. Let’s break down what’s happening. Google allows people to:

Maintain a Rich Profile. Google recently launched new features called Google profiles which allows users to upload profile pics, include personal information and preferences, and allow it to be discoverable on the web. These are coupled with a Google account such as gmail, and is at the core of these efforts.

Connect and Communicate With Others. Individuals using the Google profiles can connect to each other and share information using a variety of tools, not all of them necessarily social. For example, Gmail and Google Talk contain not just your contacts, but also understand with whom you communicate the most. Google doesn’t explicitly ask if you’re a ‘friend’ or ‘fan’ of someone, but rather, allows people to connect to each other in a variety of communication tools. And most recently, Google launched Google Sidewiki, which allows anyone to add comments to any page on the Web with just a Firefox plug-in.

Centralize Information In A Useful Way. Allowing people to build profiles and communicate with each other isn’t of much value unless it can provide a more useful experience not previously available. Google provides a number of tools like Google Wave, a collaboration tool we’ve started to experiment with, Gtalk instant messanger, and Gmail which rivals Facebook’s newsfeed, chat, and inbox respectively.

Google’s Stealth Threat
The difference between Google and destination social networks like MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook is that Google doesn’t have a specific URL. Instead, it is creating elements that envelope the web, by enabling every online (and mobile) activity to possibly be social one –then running it all on their own centralized platform. Google isn’t going after a frontal, brute force assault on Facebook and the other social networks — it simply can’t win at that game on a global basis. Instead Google is pursuing a softer approach, a zen-like attach much like water flowing around a rock. It is using its strengths — ubiquity and open platforms — to put “social” into every corner of the Web.

This is the stealth threat — that today’s social networks won’t really be losing share to the “Google network”, but rather, that they will become slowly less relevant as EVERYTHING gets social thanks to advances by Google. Their end goal? Google’s social network is designed to exist everywhere –not be centralized in any one location. By the way, two can play at this game and we see Microsoft making similar moves in the future. (Edit: It was pointed out to Charlene that Yahoo! is also making similar moves with its social APIs).

Key Takeaways

  1. Enveloping The Social Web Is Core To Google’s Strategy. This is inline with Google’s traditional strategy of organizing the world’s information –then serving up monetization options around it. Although a few years late to the game, Google’s move is crucial as they already have large amounts of information about what you look for, who you know, and the activities you do. It’s a natural step for them to also organize and make sense of the social and behavioral information that people create. In addition, Google — who already has long term relationships with agencies, brands, and marketers — will be a natural place for companies to look to for advertising and marketing opportunities around social data, rather than new players and start-ups.
  2. Google’s Recent Moves Threaten Incumbent Social Networks. Facebook and other competitors will need to quickly spread it’s Facebook Connect platform and evolve it to something that doesn’t even require APIs or registrations. The challenge with Facebook Connect is it requires the website owner (publisher) and the user to opt-in and allow for content to become social. With Google’s SideWiki, only the users need to opt-in, which will cause adoption to spread must faster. Facebook will need to extend it’s inline browser (surfing the web within the context of or developing their own browser to counter Google’s moves. Facebook’s core conundrum is balancing personal and often private information of its community with the need to expose information in public in order to be relevant in search and eventually advertising.
  3. Despite Privacy Concerns, Users Will Continue To Use Google. Although privacy concerns will continue to be the mainstay of objections, the benefits to the common user will outweigh any critics. We know that people will verbally object to their privacy being an opportunity for another company, yet they continue to behave in a way opposite to their objections. Why? For most, they’ve grown to trust players like Google. Or they are willing to give up control of some information in exchange for convenience, such as having social data conveniently show up on Google Maps on your phone. And for others, the price of privacy can be measured by what information they will give up to get ‘free shipping’. The root concern isn’t broadly about privacy, but specifically about privacy in the context of when you’re not in control of it. Google is highly motivated to maintain the trust of users and will do everything possible to continue earning and deserving that trust.

We’re not the only ones to notice this trend, Search Engine Watch also characterizes Google as a social media company. We hope our viewpoint sheds light to where Google is heading, and hope to hear your viewpoints too.

86 Replies to “Revealing Google’s Stealth Social Network Play”

  1. Interesting post. I am not sure I follow the logic, though. Seems to me that Google is going to have a hard time “socialifying” the web.

    I agree that Google has been offering social tools (Google Profiles, Google Friend Connect, eventually a good standalone contact manager, IM, email, and a few other tools). However, I think it’s useful to differentiate between offering tools and services that people can use and having those tools adopted and used in a meaningful way.

    I have no doubt that Google can match Facebook, MySpace, or any other company in terms of technical execution of social tools. However, the company that’s likely to win is not the best tool provider, but the person who is the repository of data on people. I think that’s going to be Facebook in every field except for email. When it comes to being the social networking plumbing / oxygen of the web, including identity, I think it’s going to be very hard for Google to unseat Facebook. Facebook just has so much more data about what people are actually doing, to whom they connect, and what content they find most engaging. I have no idea how anyone else could bootstrap that same corpus of data in a short period of time. Anecdotally, I’m not seeing a huge, deep investment on the part of individuals in enhancing their Google profiles. I view the Google profile more as a profile DNS service, not a service that an individual would invest in making robust and interesting.

    All of that aside, I agree 100% on your comment on email. Email is a very rich and robust social network. Xobni and Gist are both doing cool stuff here in terms of distilling trends and meaning from email communication patterns. I suspect that Google could do an even better job than both of these folks given their expertise in data processing and link / relationship analysis.

  2. one problem that i see w/ this approach is google figuring out how to play w/ other email systems, like outlook. I am a very casual gmail user and though i have a google profile, it’s not the main place i interact w/ info and people. how do you think google integrates the personal and professional when it’s more implicit than explicit strategy they’re following?

  3. Thanks for sharing your insights. I agree with your definition of a Social Network, and I think that just as we operate in multiple networks in our offline lives we’ll continue to operate in multiple networks online. I can’t envision a scenario where any one network becomes “the” network.

    Social Network characteristic #3) “the ability to do something useful or valuable they couldn™t have done otherwise” is the key point of differentiation. What I include in my profile (1) and who I choose to connect to (2) are determined by what the network allows me to do. At it’s most elemental level, I share personal content with people I already know on Facebook, and ideas and information with people I have things in common with on Twitter. There isn’t much overlap between the two. I’m also part of a local social commerce network ( that has a different set of connections – people and businesses that I want to buy and sell with.

    There’s no question that online experiences will become increasingly social, but I expect that niche social networks will also flourish.

  4. Great post Jeremiah and Charlene!

    You guys are dead on. I have thought for a while that Google is aiming to approach social from the open and location-independent perspective vs. Facebooks’s walled garden approach. Lots of differences, but clearly there is a level of parallel to AOL v. the open web. It is no surprise that Facebook has gained a lot of traction with older and less tech savvy users in the last year. It’s easy to use and there’s nothing to stitch together or really set up. For years, my mother thought AOL WAS the internet too…but even she is now out in the open web…

    One feature/piece you might have also added in the Google social set is Google Reader. Consuming content from people whose content you “follow” is a huge piece of social…not only from blog feeds but even more so from shared items.

    Thanks for the good read.


  5. Great stuff. I think Google’s play is to do what they do best which is deliver information to the user. If the profile pages are indexed, able to be searched, and contain user content from platforms such as Twitter & Facebook, Flickr & Picassa, LinkedIn, Google Reader and YouTube, Google could begin to aggregate data and make it very useful for people. Combining social and search to connect people. I think they will struggle to own the conversation itself, but might be very effective in aggregating, cataloging, and organizing it. The ability to integrate social data with other forms of data, such as transactional and pos data, would then become much easier. This creates some very interesting possibilities. Also, don’t forget services like latitude, which although not widely used, provides locational data, which could also be integrated into the mix. Regardless of the outcome, this is fascinating to watch and be a part of.

  6. I absolutely agree with the notion that Google already has a social media network. It’s those who can’t think outside the box who think the network need appear on a “single” site.

    Myspace and now Facebook may get significant membership numbers, but where are they with sustained penetration into their members lives? Most people I know got through a bell curve of dramatic use and then dramatic drop off for such sites.

    By contrast I consistently and regularly exchange more information with others (and also spend more time) on google products than any other website(s) with my usage continuing to increase.

    Add the increased cross-utilization of the products from contacts, voice, mail, photos, profiles and reader and throw in the growing wave (pun intended) on the android/voice/wave combo and you’ll realize that other models are far behind in the game.

    Seems to me that Google is the only ones who actually know what “social media” means. In the end, I think their model is more sustainable for general users than asking people to live their life all through one site or all through multiple unrelated sites which require more user information maintenance.

  7. Good points and while the “envelope” approach is effective, I’m still confused by the fact that Google Friend Connect does not to have a centralized interface (in addition to the “envelope”).

    Do you believe that Google is keeping this fully decentralized in order to maintain the perception that they’re not competing with Twitter/Facebook/etc., they just haven’t gotten around to it yet or is there some other benefit I’m not thinking of?

  8. “2. Google™s Recent Moves Threaten Incumbent Social Networks.
    …Facebook will need to extend it™s inline browser (surfing the web within the context of or developing their own browser to counter Google™s moves…”

    You guys are right about the FB/Browser issue being an important, and perhaps, necessary quiver for FB to have to defend their fort.

    It seems to me that the fastest way for FB to get there would be to acquire Opera. By doing this, they would also acquire a talented team and very deep domain expertise in the HTML5 space. Do you agree with this view?

    As for Google’s socnet strategy, it will be what it will be. Larry & Sergey are not building an empire, they are simply playing the most popular Russian pastime, master chess. They are ten steps ahead at all times. Check mate, eminent.

  9. Google says the scope of their mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
    This undoubtedly applies to conversations, photos, video and all other forms of human social interaction (and interaction with the environment). Yep, they think big. People do give up personal information to Google because it helps Google help them — not just make a buck. Meanwhile, networks like Facebook give the impression they’re out to wring your personal data for all it’s worth and sell it to the highest bidder. People trust Google because it doesn’t seem to need to do this. Google is simply connecting people to other people and information. Humans are naturally social and sharing — Google just facilitates this on a much grander scale than the companies who view themselves only as “social networks.” Long way of saying “i agree.” Nice post.

  10. Very interesting analysis; I agree with you on the threat and opportunities for Google, Facebook and others. It could also be that each of them decide to co-exist and devote themselves to what they do best: Facebook to provide magnificent social experiences that can be enjoyed by end users and leveraged by marketers, Google to the massive aggregation of data which feeds invaluable services for end users and opportunities for marketers. I alluded a little bit to this in a blog post earlier this year:

    Filiberto Selvas

  11. I think the two of you have valid points – and Google is all about aggregating data for better targeting of ads (that should make you feel less human).

    But, outside of search and monetizing search, they haven’t launched a leading service. That’s the real issue for the end-goals of the company. GChat/GTalk never became the threat people thought it would, GMail is still behind Yahoo and Hotmail, Chrome has made a small dent – I can go on and on.

    I wonder when the SideWiki lashback will happen.

  12. I would only counter with this:

    Facebook is trying to be the next AOL, but building it from the bottom up.

    Google is trying to be the next Facebook, but building it from the outside in.

  13. Great post, I wrote about the same thing about this time last year –

    To your point, I think Google understands that it™s not the particular site that drives users, but rather the connections, the relationships, the content and the tools that work in harmony with each other that makes a network more plentiful. They understand that you must build tools that work in succinct with the internet (and internet ready devices) as a whole. They understand the mistakes that have been made before them.

    I think its awesome to watch and will only make things better for the user in the end.

  14. While I’ve taken a different road, I reach the same conclusion as you do. My definition of a social network includes: 1) a community of people with something in common, 2) conversations happening among participants in that community, and 3) collaboration toward an outcome. So, as we’ve discussed before, email doesn’t really fit.

    But, Google’s efforts do. In overly-simplistic terms: Wave enables collaboration. Sidewiki enables more conversations. And – while some Google community-building tools exist – there will be much more to come.

    And, as you’ve mentioned, the Google approach continues to be about ubiquity, not centralization.

    It will be truly fascinating to see all this play out. Thanks again for a great post.

  15. First, Open Social was google’s attempt to bring the Google idea of openness to social networks… It failed miserably. They announced it too early because they wanted to take buzz away from FBML. Kinda like the way they announced ChromeOS way too early because they wanted to steal the thunder from MS Office live. Google is like a little high school girl starting rumors… no offense to the high school girls that read this blog.

    They have repackaged open social as Google gadgets, for example the latitude gadget. Problem is they are all completely separate. I find using friendfeed is the only way to connect them.

    Of course you can get some pretty cool gadgets and put them on your igoogle page and have a social network that competes with any of the main brands, including geolocation services, microblogging, realtime news, status updates etc… but nobody is going to do that, because like you said, Google is going stealth about it. They don’t tell people to do it. All the pieces are there… they just need a good container

  16. I wouldn’t trust just one bank to look after all my money any more than I’ll trust one brand to look after my digital footprint. Equally I find that historically whenever one company has tried to dominate a whole environment the constituent elements of their total suite becomes too damn complicated. Microsoft may have built one of the world’s biggest software companies, but I suspect 90% of users are blissfully unaware of 90% of their products. This conundrum will plague Google too….

  17. I’m sorry to say but you’re missing a few key fundamental points in your argument, even though I agree with your basic premise that Google are building a socnet by stealth and that they will connect the disparate parts when ready.

    But before their socnet can be built I think Google has a number of internal compatibility issues that need to be addressed. Firstly Google Profiles are currently NOT related to Google Contacts even though contacts are used in Voice, Wave, YouTube, Mail etc.

    My Google Wish List = Dynamic
    1. Personally I would love to see Google replace contacts for profiles in all of their products so that I’m able to Google connect (subscribe/follow) my Google friends (contacts) profiles which would cumulatively create a dynamic and eventually a distributed (I’ll explain why dynamic and distributed below) address book.

    The primary reason I would prefer this is simply because it would put the onus on my Google friends to maintain their own profiles themselves and thus not be a laborious maintenance chore for me keep their details upto date. Secondly by forcing me to connect (follow/subscribe) with Google friends/contacts it will also enable my friends/contacts to determine the level of privacy/information disclosure they wish me to have.

    For example if someone wanted to connect (subscribe/follow) my Google Profile – – I should initially get a request much like FB/LinkedIn and I would then be able to decide if in the first place I wanted to give them permission to connect and secondly I could also determine to what access level. i.e can they know my home addr, phone number, location etc or just limit them to my work details etc.

    The nice thing about enabling this permission based model is that the people subscribing to my profile don’t need to maintain my details and secondly and more importantly if I ever choose to revoke my profile details (much like twitter unfollow) then all my details dynamically disappear from their address book. After all its my data and I should be able to choose who can and cannot access it.

    My Web Wish List = Distributed
    2. That said all we have discussed so far is how Google could create yet another dynamic but CLOSED socnet to compete with Facebook’s closed socnet. Personally what I want is not only a dynamic address book but a DISTRIBUTED address book. Besides being able to Google connect to subscribe to friends profiles weather I was in GMail, YouTube, Voice, Wave I would also like to be able to connect to friends on other socnets which is where the distributed wish comes into play.

    Which ever socnet I choose to call home – Fbook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, Msft – I should also be able to use a industry wide standard to connect to people/friends on other socnets and have their profile details appear in my dynamic and distributed addr book.

    This industry problem reminds me of the bad old days of email before SMTP. Email was a closed world with complicated gateways appearing to link the disparate email systems together. Then we got X.500 and the vCard standard to enable profile and directory standards.

    Social networks need the same interoperability barriers removed. An extended vCard standard to cover profiles and permissions and a universal (FB/Google/Twitter) connect protocol much like SMTP did for email.

    So yes Google is creating a socnet by stealth but I hope it is also going to solve the wider industry issue. Google has the amrketing and technical might to create new open standards for interoperability I hope they choose to do so.

  18. I like Charles Hudson’s comment on Google Profile (and I think this applies to Reader as well) as a DNS service.

    I don’t see Google replacing any of these social sites. Rather I think they’ll become the compiler for social content the way they are with general web content already.

    Definitely making social accessible in “all corners of the web” but also serving as a jumping off point. A portal, if you will (how 90’s does that sound?).

  19. Sam, your right… Google hardly puts any emphasis on maintaining your Google profile. I think if they made that the center hub… everything else you talk about would fall into place

  20. Good analysis. Do people feel that they have a Google network in the same sense that they have Facebook friends, Twitter followers and LinkedIn contacts? Perhaps they do but is the perception there?

    An important thing about Wave – it allows users to construct networks on the fly. Right now if I start talking about football on Facebook I bore x% of my contacts. And if I start talking about getting tired of my job…well I guess you can’t do that.

    But not so on Wave, where you can build a network for each discussion (yes, I figure that you can approximate this on most networks if you are an advanced user). I can have people that I only talk football with and people with whom I can share late night exploits without Mom being any the wiser. I think that works well.

  21. Personally i am of the opinion that you made a very good point. Google slowly but steadily building a social empire of its own. What might be required is integration of the various google technologies in one place. There were also some good points made about the various problems that need to be addressed, for example the inability to restrict the level of access. But i think google has the wherewithal to overcome these problems. Currently every social network is limited somehow, Facebook for me is still a very personal social network and twitter is awesome but not the way to have a detailed discussion.
    What i would want is a single solution to all my problems and if you see, google has most of the things already. My chat with my wave can remain personal. my profile, google wave, sidewiki etc allow networking with more people. I would love if the sidewiki conversations could also be available in a feed or the wave.
    For my the tools are there and the stage is set. Its just the proper integration and enhancing the capabilities of the tools that might do the trick for google.
    And they dont have to worry about the most important thing required to sustain social networks – users.

  22. Matt, Sam, the key to watch is if the Google profile can be merged, populated, or connected to existing profile information.

    I appreciate everyone’s comments –very thoughtful expansions on the topic. I also updated the post to point out some of Yahoo’s moves in social APIs in the post based on comments in Charlene’s post on the Altimeter Blog. More comments here:

  23. While I like the fact that you defined social networking, I think what’s missing from your definition is the fact that Social Networking includes a ‘conversation’ or ‘dialogue’ – an 2-way exchange of information (content). It’s more than just being able to do something new that’s useful or valuable, although that’s also necessary.

  24. I think Google should learn from Microsoft’s experience in trying to corner the Web browser market. MS certainly dominated for a while, but eventually they lost out because quality trumps brute force in the end. In the case of social media, here is something that is driven by consumers more than it is by companies. People use Facebook and Twitter because they are free and easy to use, not because they are Facebook and Twitter. Any move to envelope and control the space is likely to be flamed by the online community for what it is, another lame attempt to monopolize the Internet.

  25. As a user I don’t like how they ad more and more features without telling you and its turning me away from their services. From a strategic perspective the grounds up way may be good but how will the users like it?

  26. Two other insights

    Google is often the starting point for the internet, and as such, they can position their distributed social features ahead of other properties (competitors)

    The only other starting point of the internet that could beat is a browser. Facebook should continue to develop it’s inline browser, or open discussions with Firefox and Flock as soon as possible. Given it’s synergies with it’s investor parent Microsoft there are options with IE, and potentially newcomer Bing.

  27. I have seen very few things in my lifetime that confirmed how different U.S. Citizens are from Canadians and I might add Europeans as well. I was astonished to read through all of those posts, without once finding any significant mention of privacy issues and its large potential impacts. While U.S. legislators will not act until their electors demand it, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that laws will be soon be passed in many other countries, limiting the ability of firms such as Google and Facebook to gather and sell or otherwise profit from the collection of social networking information.

    There are huge obvious dangers in these practices. In the past computer systems have succeeded by emulating things that already existed within our societies. They typically automated processes, as opposed to creating anything that was ‘net new’. The unregulated and unparalleled accumulation of information about people is something that mankind has no prior experience with. It is clear that this can be a very profitable business to be in, however it is just as obvious that in many instances, this will only occur at the cost of a loss of personal privacy.

    Until it is known what people will, or will not agree acceptable practices might be, I believe that many of the comments above amount to little more than wishful thinking. Some countries will adopt privacy laws that will require that its citizens opt-in, before a firm can gather information about them. Others may decide to allow people to register themselves as opting-out. Given the global nature of the Internet, no doubt all of this will create very significant problems for anyone using the Internet to gather personal data.

    Keep in mind that there will be very little incentive for the governments of other nations to pay much heed to any arguments presented, that do not respect its own citizen’s rights. And while I do expect that U.S. legislators may be slower than most to act, sooner or later U.S. citizens will become very uncomfortable with the accumulation of many types of information and how it might be used. It was my assumption that those of you who were quick to recognize the value of accumulating personal information, should have been just as quick to acknowledge the dangers. I think there should be a recognition somewhere that the current free-for-all will not last forever. Privacy legislation will have more of an influence the future of the Googles and Facebooks of the Internet, than their own growth strategies will.

  28. Jack, this global view is very helpful and appreciated. When I spoke in France, there were several objections from the audience about the future of the web –and social data spreading freely. It was quite the opposite in liberal Netherlands –where information was nearly encouraged to be spread and shared.

    Despite the cultural differences, we know that Google, Yahoo and others have bowed to the cultural impacts of the countries they’re in, take China for example and the impacts to search results. They are aware of the cultural privacy needs and how to morph.

  29. You may want to do more reporting on what xobni, Gist and SenderOK do for bringing social networking onto the Email platform and away from browser URLs. Yes, the browser URL destination ploy is dying as browsers become a place to view material that first got one’s attention on Email platforms and Micro-blogging (now only Twitter but maybe soon to be open)platforms.

  30. Jeremiah:

    I think Google’s approach is smart: Be part of users’ experience wherever they connect and spend their time and attention on the social web.

    Google hasn’t been the best at community building, which is why Sidewiki, for example, still has plenty of growing to do. I do think that most people have come to trust Google around search and information gathering, but whether that trust extends to the “algorithm” for Sidewiki remains to be seen.

    As always, watching with great interest.

  31. It seems like a daunting task for Google to build a community around its efforts thus far. As someone mentioned above, Sidewiki has not exactly been blowing anyone’s doors off. On the hand, the acquisition of was brilliant and seems to be paying off.

  32. Thank you for your keen insight into Google’s strategies. Guess that’s why it is on a 52 week high, stock price wise with more upside really up-in-the-air:-)

  33. I was talking to my parents about BIG BROTHER this morning and how it exists, and it’s name is Google. What I find interesting is how we, me and the general population I see, are sooo concerned about government having all our information, yet we are quite happy to hand over the same information to a privately run business.

  34. For me, social networks are only a great graph of pipes connecting people, sharing not so interesting information. Most of the information my friends are sharing through Facebook is useless for me, silly bits of stupid information about the groups they’re in and stupid things written in walls nobody reads. In Facebook, the only information is US. I mean, we, my group of friends, do exist. The only objective in Facebook is to create my network, my graph, but I’m not sure what is it going to be for. That’s all. Now, Google’s approach is more associated to services and activities, and I think that’s a smarter position. I don’t care if a friend of mine joined a fan group about Miley Cirus (Facebook), but I want to read the profile of a user who wrote a good tip as a comment in the sidebar of a web I usually read.


  35. The old adage that the only constant is change is more true than ever with Google.

    One day Hubpages and Squidoo are all the rage. Next day they get the “slap”.

    Google is one of the few established disruptors in the industry. Staying on top of all their beta releases and cool new features could spawn an industry of its own.

    An example of this is their Wonder Wheel. If you click “show options” at the top of the page, a left hand column opens up and there is an options for “Wonder Wheel”. Clicking on that opens up a visual representation of a hub (your search term) and spokes of what Google considers to be related terms. A great way to do keyword research for PR or SEM without having to fire up Google Keyword Tool.

    I for one hope the new Bing/Yahoo partnership can help them gain significant ground vs Google, if only because having search engines being dominated by one company is not good for anyone.

    Until that day comes though, all marketers will need to stay on top of what the heck Google does on a day to day basis. Our success and our clients’ success literally depends on it.

    Ed Yang
    Firecracker PR

  36. as am MBA final year student i think google is just like air,water to me as we cannot do anything without gooogle. But talking about its usability issues and competition. I think google is growing day by day with its applications and it would be stupid to stay that its not attracting marketers,consumers. There are many disadvantages of two many applications also:
    1)Too much of useless data on the google
    2)As a user i think its very important to have a focussed approach rather than having too much under one umbrella.
    3)There could be too many advertisers who might be advertising on google but i have a question how much click through do they get.
    please reply if anybody has an answer to it.

  37. Jeremy, I absolutely share your observations on Google! A year ago, I had to clarify as strategy consultant for a large customer (a leading telecoms) what social network services (SNS) means for their future business and how they should best position themselves in this new competitive landscape. During my research, a) it became clear that there are some basic, mandatory ingredients for a SNS. b) Any website or application can be turned into a SNS. Whether people accept the service is another story. Successful apps or websites, which were turned into leading SNS (with a clear strategic development path) is QQ in China. QQ was a former IM client. In France, you have Skyblog, which was at the start a blog. c) Google is clearly adding missing components or evolving existing components to cover all ingredients for a SNS.
    BTW, your blog is excellent. Thanks for sharing your insights!

  38. I started using google a few months ago and it's awesome. Gmail is the reason I started to like email again….it's great because you have everything in one place. Another thing is that when you have an issue, you can email them – and they'll actually respond which amazes me. But yeah, I think it could become pretty big.

    The problem with Facebook is that they just don't give a shit. They don't care about what their users want or think, which is why I think we're going to see it become less and less popular.

  39. Unfortunately for Google (at the moment) is that the vast majority of non-tech web users don't have publicly available social graph information. My Google “Social Circle” results only have a couple friends whose blogs I link to from my blog and mark with XFN. In comparison, Facebook has hundreds of those in my social circle, 90+% of which don't have any useful social graph information outside of Facebook's silo.

  40. Although published in October, Jeremiah recently tweeted a link back to this post…

    I very much agree and would like to boil it down further: Facebook must break free of its destination-based service delivery (ie: if it is ever going to reach the ubiquity of Google. Imagine if we needed a different email client, like a different type of Outlook, for each of our email accounts? Or if we couldn't consolidate IM profiles with tools like Trillian or Adium? Same principles apply here, I believe. I wrote a post a while back that explores in more depth:

    Jeremiah and Charlene- Thanks as always for great thinking and reading.

  41. It all makes sense. Great post. If Google would directly assault Facebook they would have probably started to improve Orkut a while ago. However they chose the way of introducing various tools which all had social elements included.

    What seemed to be random, might now come together. After all, Google profiles have been there but weren't really connected to everything else.

    Google started “embracing” the web and I am sure they have a big vision around this strategy. The main battle might not be fought between the platforms but systems like Facebook connect and e.g. Google Friend connect (or whatever else Google has in their mind)

  42. It all makes sense. Great post. If Google would directly assault Facebook they would have probably started to improve Orkut a while ago. However they chose the way of introducing various tools which all had social elements included.

    What seemed to be random, might now come together. After all, Google profiles have been there but weren't really connected to everything else.

    Google started “embracing” the web and I am sure they have a big vision around this strategy. The main battle might not be fought between the platforms but systems like Facebook connect and e.g. Google Friend connect (or whatever else Google has in their mind)

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