Google Social Network Coming Together with Slide, Zynga

Google could use Google accounts, Gmail, Google Buzz and several other Google Apps as the basis for its social network. Throw Slide and Zynga in the mix, and Google has something to keep users engaged.

Google's purchase of social application maker Slide and $100 million investment in online gaming provider Zynga provide a window into the company's social network strategy.

The search engine clearly feels, as Facebook and MySpace did before it, that people want to use social widgets and play games to enhance their social network experience.

Some believe that experience can be tied together by using Google's inherent social graph, which is rooted in Google Accounts and includes Gmail and Google Apps.

Google, which has not confirmed the so-called Google Me social network it is allegedly building, wants to put content in front of people that will keep them engaged and sharing information. It makes sense that the largest trafficker in online ads wants to create effective social advertising campaigns.

The problem with Google is that while it has several tools with hints of social, they are walled off from one another.

Google Buzz is a social conversation service leveraging the massive social graph culled from Gmail. Despite an ugly privacy snafu, Buzz culled tens of millions of users, underscoring the thirst for Google social services.

There are only about 200 million Gmail users who can access Buzz if they choose. That's great by most measures, but pales in comparison to Facebook's massive user base of over half a billion people sharing info.

Altimeter Group analyst Jeremiah Owyang believes Google's killer social network is its number of Google account users, which includes the millions of users of Google services such as Google Apps, Google Voice, Google Reader, iGoogle, Google Latitude and myriad other apps.

Google told eWEEK it counts "hundreds of millions" of Google account subscribers, but declined to be more specific. Google accounts are where the real user base lies, according to Owyang.

In buying Slide, Owyang believes Google will use apps such as Top Friends and Super Poke as a pathway to data about Facebook users for its own social network.

Such a social network would include Buzz, Google Docs and the rest of Google Apps, weaving a rich tapestry of Web services, with Google accounts as the main thread.