Google co-founder Sergey Brin Jan. 20 tipped his hand that he is driving the company's social search efforts. The company is seeking to gain ground versus Facebook in this regard.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin admitted that real-time and identity-based
services related to social networking are important areas for Google as it
seeks to stem the tide of traffic flowing to Facebook.
He also allowed that the search engine has only "touched 1
percent" of what social can lend to search. Brin's admission was a
response to a question on the topic during the company's fourth-quarter
earnings call Jan. 20, where Google CEO Eric
Schmidt said he was handing over the CEO
mantle to co-founder Larry Page April 4.
Brin is currently trying to hash together what Schmidt has described this year
as a layered approach to social networking.
His comments on the call indicated that real-time integration and social tools
are key for Google going forward.
Google last year began incorporating
Twitter tweets, along with Facebook and MySpace
status updates, in Google.com Web pages. The company launched
Google Social Search a year ago this week.
The service drops content from searchers' contacts directly into search results.
The service requires users to have a Google profile and be logged into their
Google account. Google then builds a bridge between users' Google accounts and
their Google profiles, surfacing users' content in what Google calls a
However, this service hasn't yielded any discernible payoff, as the social
search results appear at the bottom of search results pages. To many users who
don't scroll down that far, the social search results may as well be invisible.
It is quite possible Google may have been able to use the search results
that it collected on users to refine its forthcoming social products, currently
code-named Google +1
"This is really just the tip of the iceberg," Brin said on the
call. "I think there is far more opportunity. We've touched just 1 percent
of the capabilities that could be deployed in that realm, and I think you
should expect us to continue to develop those kinds of capabilities."
However, Brin declined to provide specifics about the social software
products and features Google has in the works, noting that he didn't want to
risk having the still-under-wraps Web services labeled vaporware. This was a
not-so-subtle allusion to Apple COO Tim
Cook's recent comment that forthcoming Android 3.0 tablets are
Many analysts view the leveraging of users' Google profile information as
the social graph believed to be Google's key weapon in its social challenge
versus Facebook, whose membership is 600 million-plus and rising.
Forrester Research analyst Augie Ray said Google's approach to social has
been quite disjointed despite lots of investments in different products in
different corners of the company.
"What you didn't see was a real cohesive social approach, either one
that was cohesive around social itself or one that was integrated into Google's
core product experience," Ray added.
"I think that has been a loss for Google and why it has continued to
lag some other companies that have been leaders in the Web 2.0 era."