It was a classic tit-for-tat.
No sooner did the idea that Facebook is challenging Google in search re-emerge than word of Google challenging Facebook’s social network dynasty came from none other than Digg co-founder Kevin Rose.
Google hasn’t responded to my request for more info, but I can tell you now its spokespeople won’t comment on what they deem “rumors or speculation.”
But what could Google Me be? Google already launched Buzz, a social conversation service tacked onto Gmail.
Buzz isn’t so tightly tied to users’ Google Profiles the way people’s Facebook profiles are tied to their sharing utilities.
To get to my profile, where I can’t do much of anything else but see and manage my data, I have to click a link in Buzz to go to a separate page, which is pretty ugly and clumsy:
I log into Facebook and can immediately access my profile and those of the people I’m following. I hop on Buzz and have to jump around. While I can share links, photos and videos on Buzz, it feels more like Twitter than Facebook. That is, limited, a mininetwork.
Chris Saad suggested Google Me is a build-out of social sharing features on Profiles. I would welcome this, but would it deliver a full social network? Those people on Google Profiles are largely unconnected and Buzz was designed to deliver some of that connective social tissue.
Of course, Orkut does offer the centralized access for sharing and a network of 100 million-plus users, so that’s why people are guessing that Google Me will be some Google Buzz- Orkut hybrid.
Buzz is struggling to catch on, and Orkut hasn’t caught on anywhere outside of Brazil, India and some other countries. And it’s had six years. In that time, Facebook has racked up nearly 500 million users.
All of this is to say: Google challenging Facebook in social networking is like Facebook challenging Google in search.
People are comfortable socializing on Facebook, which is where their friends (and their friends of friends) are, and they are comfortable searching on Google, which is where all of the data about businesses and places and other facts live.
Unless and until there are technological improvements on both sides, paired with practical user behavior shifts from consumers, never the twain shall meet with any seriousness.
That said, I would love to see Google Profiles built out a bit more. How about you?