Facebook's Ben Ling Goes Back to Google

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-08-18 Print this article Print

Is Facebook's flash fading?

In a sign that apparently the grass is not always greener on the other side, Ben Ling, Google Checkout guru turned Facebook Platform Product Marketing Man is reportedly rejoining Google after less than a year at the popular social network, wrote Kara Swisher on AllThingsDigital.

Swisher said Ling is rejoining Google to work on the YouTube team, but he didn't confirm this for her and Google refused to comment for me this weekend. I trust Swisher's reporting so I'm going to proceed on the premise that this is going to happen within the next couple of weeks.

Here is why this is so exciting to me. Google has been struggling to find ways to make money from YouTube. Google CEO Eric Schmidt even repeated last week that it has not figured out the perfect way to situate ads on YouTube despite promising in-video ad tests.

Meanwhile, Facebook has been trying to figure out how to set up an e-commerce platform to help programmers get paid for the apps they build on the open platform.

Reportedly, Ling has very much wanted to do this. I see no reason to doubt that given his e-commerce focus on Google's Checkout team a year ago. On the flip side of that coin, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly lukewarm on the idea of having a platform to charge for apps.

At F8 last month, his response to a question about when we'd see an e-commerce platform was evasive: "I wish I knew." Now it seems increasingly clear that Zuckerberg isn't into it.

Two companies, with two different monetization strategies. Google wants to monetize YouTube, while Facebook's e-commerce efforts are slippery at best. Then you have Ling, one guy with the will to monetize... and Google gets him.

This is yet another way Facebook is different from Google. Facebook is focused on the user and the platform, while the developer is kind of the third wheel. Google is focused on the user and bringing ads to them innocuously across its properties. This model is another reason why Google is blowing away the field.

Let's look a little at the recruiting wars. In the past year, Google's Sheryl Sandberg and Elliot Schrage, along with Ling, all left Google for Facebook.

But now after mixing with the new Google folks, Facebook's core talent, guys such as CTO Adam D'Angelo, Matt Cohler and now Ling have left. Well, Cohler at least is still an adviser to Facebook when he leaves in September.

I have to wonder if the philosophies of both the incoming and outgoing parties are so different as to trigger the exodus from Facebook. Google has a lot more engineers and therefore a lot more talent.

In a personnel war of attrition, Google will win. In Ling, I don't think we've seen the last executive to leave Google for Facebook and return when he or she realizes the grass isn't greener. Can Facebook withstand these body blows?  

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