Google Should Target the Unlit Social Graph Before Facebook
Ever since Google launched its
Facebook Like +1 recommendation button, super smart people have weighed in with a number of suggestions on what Google needs to do to succeed in social, especially now that we realize the +1 button isn't the answer even if it could be a nice monetization boost.
Talk intensified after Larry Page took the CEO reins last week, and things really heated up when it was reported that Page is doubling down on social, and tying employees' bonus fortunes to it.
We all know Facebook has done for the obvious social graph what Google has done for search: commoditized it and is making money off of it.
But what about the less obvious social graph, the connections between people that aren't family, close friends and colleagues?
Coburn cites examples such as his large network of pick-up basketball players in San Francisco that is hidden from the social Web. It's a place-based network of people, known only by first names. Tracking them down on Facebook isn't really practical.
Here's another example. My daughter is in a Girl Scout troop and darned if she knows but two of the group member's last names.
The leader of the troop is constantly calling my wife to coordinate things. These girls are perfectly capable of networking on their own, even if they need rides here or there. What if there were a social network to handle this sort of less permanent, or even ad-hoc networking?
Much like the Dark Web, there exists network upon network not yet graphed by Facebook, waiting to be mapped, organized, and optimized for communication. This is the unlit social graph, and this is where Facebook is vulnerable.
As Coburn noted, Google has invested tremendous resources in indexing hidden pieces of content, mining the Deep, Dark Web for troves of info.
Google could certainly create a mobile application that solves this problem for users, and not just pick-up basketball or Girl Scout troops. It would be like Latitude, but with semi-anonymous people glued not by friendships, but by local interests.
Imagine Tupperware party groups, La Leche League groups, model-building hobbyists and other social functions where people are friendly but not necessarily friends.
Color is touching on the ad-hoc, elastic network for photo-sharing, but we could use a little love by mining the Deep, or Dark Web Google is known for trying to drill down into.
This could be Google's entree to the social networking realm that doesn't require bolted on +1 buttons, social search and other areas where Google has to beg people to set up Google Profiles.