New developments in this race:
- Google Social Search came out of labs into Open Beta, but made little use of your Facebook social graph.
- Facebook’s response? No new features, just a simple blog post detailing how you can personalize it as a news reader. Marshall Kirkpatrick details why it’s likely to succeed.
This race is not about reading news, but whether you spend more time searching on Google or browsing Facebook. It is about whether you seek out information on the web, or prefer to consume interesting content shared by your friends.
Opinions from the blogosphere lie at both ends of the spectrum. Scoble talked about the expanding Google reef with anticipation, while Mark Hopkins asks if we should give up on Google as a social entity. Others reveal Google’s stealth social network and speculate on a Facebook phone. And while this post was being written, Scoble has discussed how Google is taking on both Apple and Facebook and is rooting for them to win.
Google’s Social Challenge
Will Google’s approach to social networking work? Will Google’s SWAT team help? See these 5 observations about the difference between Facebook and Google Social Search. As expected, when it comes to Search, Google has the upper edge in relevancy. But the problem?
Remember the iPad demo? Steve Jobs demoed Facebook, not Google Search. Engagement on social networks is affecting the search business, as Tac Anderson observed. The rest of them use computers because their friends do, and they do that to see what their friends on Facebook are up to, not to search for information on Google.
Another issue with the Google Social Circle is that Facebook and other social networks have conditioned people into adding friends. How do I add a friend to my Google Social Circle? Expect a backlash from some people: “Google doesn’t allow me to choose my friends, or friends of friends”. Google’s Social Circle is a concept that may appeal only to geeks. If users are dissatisfied with their social search results, they’ll turn to Facebook and ask their friends. That will be much simpler than trying to understand and tweak your social circle.
Google is walking on thin ice here, while Facebook is on firm ground.
It is obvious that Facebook has already won the social networking war. It is years ahead of Google in the social race. So has it won the war? Not yet.
Google is years ahead of Facebook in making money and running a steady profitable business.
Why is this important? Because Facebook and Twitter will always be crappy businesses, says the founder of Tripod, Bo Peabody, in a not-surprisingly unpopular post. Risk averse advertisers stick with tried-and-tested search advertising, and are hesitant with social networks where content is not controlled and businesses have to confront real-time negativity. Even high-profile users are complaining about obnoxious ads in social networks.
Who Will Win?
Search vs. Discovery, Seeking Information vs. Following People, are all different terms for the same two sides of the coin. My take is that both will continue to remain important and popular ways of accessing the web. This leaves room for both Facebook and Google to coexist and profit.
Facebook has a long way to go before it is a sustainable business, while Google has a long way to go in the social web. I am on Google’s side, because I distrust Facebook (for e.g. it’s non-portable data portability), and support Google’s SWAT team.