Google's Template for Facebook Killer Lies in Real Life Social Network

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-07-09 Print this article Print

Google may be rewriting the playbook for Facebook, if a fat slide deck traversing the Web is an accurate template of what the search engine has in store for its alleged Facebook killer Google Me.

In late June, news trickled out via Twitter tweet from Digg CEO Kevin Rose that Google was working on Google Me, a social software service designed to ratchet up the rivalry the search engine tried to start with Google Buzz.

While speculation ran from the notion that Google Me was simply an augmentation of Google Profiles to a a full-on social network combining orkut and Google Buzz, no one had any concrete information.

Through the first week of July, that fact hasn't changed. However, Paul Adams, a senior user experience researcher at Google who worked on Google Buzz, has rolled out a 216-page slide deck called the "The Real Life Social Network."

The gist of his presentation is that while Facebook is great for sharing, its construct is that humans have one big social circle.

Adams argues, perhaps obviously so, that people have multiple social circles and therefore need to have multiple privacy walls.

In one example, he explains that Debbie has been friended by some of the 10-year-old students she teaches how to swim.

This is a questionable choice right out of the gate; it's OK to be friendly with the kids, but it's another to allow them to friend her on a social network where adult content is rampantly shared.

Indeed, Debbie also has Facebook friends who enjoy romps in gay bars in Los Angeles and post pictures of their escapades on the social network. Where the 10-year-olds can see them. How awkward!

Adams notes on slide 14:

Facebook itself is not the problem here. The problem here is that these are different parts of Debbie's life that would never have been exposed to each other offline were linked online.

Adams notes on the next slide that the online social profiles and networks we create online don't rightly sync with our real-world networks.

This is very true. Where else would these 10-year-olds meet Debbie's friends but on Facebook, a no-holds-barred real for interactions?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants you to believe that people have one identity and that therefore everything anybody puts on Facebook is grounds for sharing with anyone else. Anyone with two identities is being disingenuous.

Unfortunately, that's an obtuse view blind to (accidentally or deliberately) the fact that people have one identity, but different groups of friends.

This sort of hucksterism won't wash in Washington, D.C., or with users like Debbie who face a conundrum: how does one manage the multiple social circles they've collected over the years that typify their life experiences?

In Facebook, they can't. Ironically, Adams said Facebook is not the problem, but neither he nor Google believe that for a second.

Adams exposed a fundamental design flaw that shows Facebook has a narrow view of social interactions and Google wants to leverage this for its own social designs.

He even noted that Facebook's approach creates opportunities for Google. in his presentation, Adams argues that people tend to have four to six social groups, with two to 10 people in each group.

Perhaps Google plans a social network where people's relationships are properly vetted and bucketed. Maybe that's what this purported Google Me effort is all about, but I don't know. No one knows. Except Google.

If you're in their social circle, they might tell you. For now, we wait and we watch. In the meantime, Adams' deck should keep you busy: |

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