“The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as ‘What shall I do tomorrow?’ and ‘What job shall I take?‘”
– Eric Schmidt, Google CEO May, 2007
Never underestimate Google. After driving the price of Microsoft’s investment up with what I believe was little real intention of partnering with Facebook, Google has leaked that they too are working on a social network codenamed Maka-Maka. Well, no duh!
Let history be our guide. Google emerged a few years after the first wave of search engines, devising a solution that provided a more relevant way to rank and index pages on the web. Along with idea of using backlinks and pagerank (and this is huge) they focused on providing a better user experience. The current situation around Social Networks is very similar. Facebook used the Google formula to capture 19 million users in a few years. During that same time Google has been playing around with Orkut and learning. Learning about you.
Google has tons of data about the way people interact on Social Networks from Orkut. They have tons of data on the way people search from Social Networks from MySpace. Add this to what they already know about online behavior (which is more than anyone) and mix it up with their enormous infrastructure and growing list of products and services and the recipe for the Google Social Network looks to be pretty tasty. Google will deliver answers to the questions you ask, possibly before you even think about the question.
This is important because I believe that the best social network experience will likely be determined by who knows more about you. It is this knowledge that will allow for the delivery of relevance, the key to any successful digital initiative. The important thing to consider here from a competitive standpoint is that Google from day one has been about delivering relevance to you and that delivering is the Google differentiator.
Google will be an intelligent social network with user controls — Facebook will be a user controlled network with intelligence.
Facebook is about the social graph — Google will be about the life graph, which of course is inherently social.
Google’s research teams have for years been working on creating the artificial intelligence that can deliver this type of relevance. I would argue that is has been priority number one over the past few years and that everything Google has done the past three years has been laying the foundation for this master “life graph” plan. It seems Schmidt has said so himself.
Google also knows one thing from their rise. – the cost of people switching tools is zero. Last month when I was in Silicon Valley I asked a number of younger technophiles gathered at the CommunityNext platforms conference on Facebook if they would consider switching their social network of choice from Facebook to Google should Google come out with a compelling product offering. Not only would they all switch, but they would be active in persuading peers to switch as well. Why? Because of the love for all things Google – a testament to the power of their brand – a brand that is nothing more than technology and user experience and oh, by the way, the very backbone of much of our digital lives already.