Although it is denying foul play, Facebook is apparently stealth-testing its search capacities in a move clearly threatening Google's search engine supremacy... and NOW, in turn, Google is rumored to be on the verge of launching a "Google Me" service that would jeopardize Facebook's domination of the social scene? Who's killing who or is it the beginning of a genuinely more social-aggressive stance on the part of Google? Let the game begin but first, here's what you need to know.
Kevin Rose's Art Of Buzz
It all started this Sunday when Digg founder Kevin Rose tweeted that Google was about to launch a Facebook competitor, called "Google Me." He cited a "very credible source" but did not provide much more details... However, the topic was hot enough to get his 140-character comment to be re-tweeted over a hundred times, according to Twitter. Presumably, one would think that Rose has sufficient evidence and information to prop his assertion... This is exactly why the web went crazy with that tiny bit of rumor. If that isn't the art of buzzing, tell me what it is.
Option One: Google Profiles
Reporting on the rumor, first, the SF Weekly blogs put forward a suggestion from one of its readers: "Google Me" would be a revisited, enhanced version of Google Profiles... According to the reader, this would explain the appointment back in April of Rick Klau to Google Profiles.
Option Two: Orkut + Buzz + Google Profiles
Brad McCarty of TheNextWeb contends that the most likely scenario would be for Google to merge its Orkut social platform with its poorly-going Buzz feature. In this scenario, Google Profile would obviously provide the personal presentation space. As McCarty points out, anyone who has a Gmail account has a Buzz account, and using Orkut requires having a Google account. He therefore reckons the current number of potential users is around 200 million, or just half of Facebook's touted "more than 400 million active users." Precisely, that IS the difference: Facebook users are "active." In the U.S. alone, users spent 6:45 hours on the social platform during the month of April, ClickZ had reported. Although Gmail and Google users are also active, Buzz's uptake has remained weak, as its much-publicized launch was marred with serious privacy issues.
The upside could very well come from Orkut. It currently only serves Brazil and India but from a business point of view, it does make sense that Google would aim to cover what is commonly known as 'BRIC' (Brazil-Russia-India-China), as consumers from those regions will be the drivers of future growth. As a reminder, Yahoo and Foursquare are already actively investing in emerging markets. So is Facebook, with its free '0.facebook' platform.
Advertising Is The Word
Owning a social site, however exciting it might be, is not the final aim of Google. Clearly, the search engine function is what end-users mostly perceive, and yet, the advertising power that it gives the company is often ignored by the general public. As McCarty said, "A social media network, owned and operated by Google, would allow nearly limitless potential for advertising." Especially if it has enough clout in new territories. Looking at Google's recent acquisition of AdMob, it definitely concurs with the hypothesis that the search giant is looking to new markets to boost its capacity and revenues.
Chad Catacchio from TheNextWeb, however, suggests that LinkedIn is a much better target than Facebook. Truth is, it really depends on what Google wants to achieve and its business plan. Competing with Facebook is one thing and plainly taking over another platform - meaning forking out money for external growth, i.e. an acquisition, vs organic growth - is something else altogether.
What's your take?
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!