Google To Pressure Facebook To “Free” Social Data & Planning Google Earth World?
Two things from the weekend suggest Google may be getting more serious about
the social networking threat posed by Facebook. TechCrunch had news that Google
is going to open up its social data information, while Google Operating System
spotted a post that Google may have plans for a new social networking system
based out of Google Earth. More about both, how I see it as Google taking what
limited data is has as a pressure play on Facebook and some related developments,
Google To “Out Open” Facebook On November 5 from TechCrunch covers
information apparently leaked from a mini-summit Google is said to have held
last week to deal with the "Facebook issue." Says TechCrunch:
The short version: Google will announce a new set of APIs on November 5
that will allow developers to leverage Google’s social graph data. They’ll
start with Orkut and iGoogle (Google’s personalized home page), and expand
from there to include Gmail, Google Talk and other Google services over time.
On November 5 we’ll likely see third party iGoogle gadgets that leverage
Orkut’s social graph information – the most basic implementation of what
Google is planning. From there we may see a lot more – such as the ability to
pull Orkut data outside of Google and into third party applications via the
APIs. And Google is also considering allowing third parties to join the party
at the other end of the platform – meaning other social networks (think Bebo,
Friendster, Twitter, Digg and thousands of others) to give access to their
user data to developers through those same APIs.
We’ll see. As I pointed out in two long comments to the TechCrunch thread, the
"social graph" or social networking data that Google has to export doesn’t seem
that much, for the moment. First I
I guess Google will have to get some social graph data first. God, I hate
that term. But let’s roll with it.
Like no one uses Orkut. No one, not in the US. There’s some data there, but
not heaps and loads — nowhere near what Facebook has.
iGoogle social graph data? Um, um — where? I have no iGoogle friends. I
have no social graph on iGoogle. Maybe (seriously) I missed some way folks are
connected on iGoogle, but I don’t think so. Connection really happens through
personalization — if we have similar tabs, we might share similar things, but
I’m not actually socially connected to people through iGoogle.
Google Talk? OK, now you’ve got me connected with some people. And we do
what shared activities on Google Talk? Like nothing. I mean, we talk.
Gmail? What, you’re going to just open up people I email? OK, going to use
my address book. Personally, I never put an address book in Gmail. But if I
did, what are you going to do — tell me what others are emailing to each
other? That’ll be fun.
I’d love to know more about what you were told, Mike — but it really sounds
like Google’s going to try and invent a social graph of its own from scratch,
perhaps by pushing Orkut somehow into iGoogle which gets a hell of a lot more
usage that Orkut does. But there’s no real social graph to tap into right now
at Google that I can see, regardless of Brad being hired and the fun of
talking about it.
Ugh, so hate that term. What, we can’t just say social data? Social
network? Social connections?
And later added in response to someone else’s comment about my initial post:
Google Reader — what you read is social? Because Google crawled in your
brain and figured out who your friends are? It COULD be social, just ain’t
right now. You can one way share with others, but Google doesn’t know who
those others are. Maybe it does if they subscribe to you through Google’s own
systems — but you didn’t give Google any permission for it then to start
pulling you socially into someone else’s life (such as with Facebook’s news
feed) based on that.
Gmail — Again, connections based on who you email? Heck, where’s my Outlook
social graph, then? Yes, Google can see who you are emailing. You really think
they’re going to start harvesting that now? I mean, you recall the freakout
when Google wanted to show just ads next to your email. Folks are going to sit
still for Gmail to making associations and flow what, your Gmail activity? You
tell me more of exactly how you think Gmail’s going to be a social app. Gmail,
mind you, not your contact book.
Google Talk — Aside from it still not being that widely used (for example,
I just asked a pretty wired friend for her IM, and she sent me Yahoo, AIM and
MSN — but no Google Talk/Gmail address), again, what social? Facebook has a
social graph because you’ve not only explicitly connected with people but
you’ve also selected a ton of things you do on Facebook that can be shared
with them. What are you doing on Google Talk? Oh, you’re talking. Like now. So
you’re going to what, start sharing that you’re talking with — right, you’re
already talking. Well, maybe you’ll make it possible that Google has some
master social feed of all you do at Google, so then if you’re talking with
someone, you can flow that out onto the feed (I’d assume because you
explicitly chose to do that). OK, kind of cool. But right now, there is no
master Google Talk social connection in place, no graph. You connect with your
friends, but Google is not currently showing you how those friends are
connected with others. Long story short — sure, opportunity here, but let’s
not make it out like this is primetime at all.
Anything you share on their platform? Sure. And again, just as soon as
Google puts the infrastructure in place to get all that sharing into a social
graph and then figures out where it’s going to flow. That’s not happening by
November, not by a long shot. There is no master social graph for them to
export. Geez, if they had that, you’d be seeing it in Orkut. Right now, you
want Orkut, you have to sign up for it specifically (and have you? Or are you
with Facebook? I actually have an Orkut account, a mature one from before the
thing even opened to the public. It’s a graveyard compared to Facebook).
From what Mike’s describing, it sounds like they’re going to open Orkut up
in the way they already have iGoogle opened up (and funded in part through the
gadget grants). Get some cool social things pulling from Orkut into the very
popular iGoogle pages, plus let Orkut flow anywhere and tout how “open” it is,
and maybe more people will start going into Orkut.
Aside from that, let Gmail and Talk be open not for the social aspect (they
don’t have that really, as explained above), but just so that you can say
Gmail and Talk can be embedded in apps anywhere. Facebook apps get embedded
in, yep — only Facebook. So saying you let your apps go anywhere again makes
you sound open and also maybe gives you an edge in being on pages across the
web (which, you know, already have all your ads — which now also,
conveniently, are being even more promoted inside of apps/gadgets).
Finally, as Mike says, since you’re being all open sounding, that gives you
leverage to say other social networks should be open, so that their data can
flow into you. That’s handy if you’re Google and freaking out that Facebook
seems to have a huge graph in your major market (the US), where you are now
behind. Plus, it’s handy when people are feeling kind of all social overloaded
and you think there might be a groundswell of support that Facebook should
Heck, if I were Facebook, I’d be sitting over there saying we’ll open up
our social graph as soon as you open up your web graph/index. Then you’ll see
how open Google is.
As you can see, I’m not a big fan of the term "social graph," which has become
the hot concept of the past few weeks. Kudos to Dave Winer for his post this
How to avoid sounding like an monkey, which calls for dumping that term and
getting back to just saying "social network" or "social network data."
It is noteworthy that Google has been revitalizing Orkut.
Facebook Opens Profiles
To Tap Into Google Traffic, While Google Grabs Facebook’s News Feed Idea and
Activity Streams & Other
Social Nuggets From Leaked Google Video from us earlier this month cover how
Orkut has gained an "Activity Feed" akin to Facebook’s news feed. So Orkut
indeed might be getting geared up to export whatever is there so far to take on
In addition, Google has been gearing up development of its gadget
applications (see Google
Gadget Ventures: Get Paid To Develop Google Gadgets). To date, if I recall
correctly from past talks with Google, the vast majority of those gadgets still
get installed on Google’s own personalized home page, not on pages across the
web. But offer up some social networking abilities into them, as well as the
ability to carry ads (see last week’s
Google Expands Google
Gadget Ads For Advertisers Beta), and Google may feel they can slowly take
on Facebook as the social network developers feel they should program for.
Now add to the mix renewed rumors that Google might try to leverage its
popular Google Earth community into some type of social network or virtual
world. We first heard these rumors back in January (see
Google To Build Second
Life Metaverse On Google Earth In China?). Today,
Google Operating System caught wind of a test happening at Arizona State
University inviting those into "3D modeling, videogaming" and asking if they
have a "virtual avatar" to take part.
The news came out on the Macrumors forum, with
Google isn’t mentioned specifically, but the company has links with the
university. Of course, it has links with plenty of other universities, some
stronger than with ASU. But one question asking if someone has a Gmail account
is pretty decent evidence that this is a Google project.
Of course, we also had speculation
back in July that Google was testing another social networking project,
Socialstream, out of Carnegie-Mellon University. This leads back to the
Google taking on Facebook over openness theme, since the project envisioned a
type of meta social site bringing in data
Presenting all of a person’s social content in a single site makes it easier
for users to keep up-to-date with their contacts by making the process of
finding information takes less effort and time. With Socialstream, users no
longer have to jump from site to site just to see if or what their contacts have
been up to, since all information is easily accessible from a single
Socialstream allows users to post content to any participating network.
Because of this, it can inherit the ability to handle any type of content:
photos, blogs, video, audio, events, and many forms of structured data. By
consolidating the controls for publishing in one place, users are free to
consider the content of their posts, and only as an afterthought specify the
people who should see it and the sites that host it. By consolidating content in
one place, Socialstream increases the benefit of commentary and referring posts,
and lowers the barriers to participation.
At a time when some worry that Facebook is too closed, the Google rumors make
a lot of sense — that by pushing out whatever social information it has now,
Google can make a play that all social networks should spill their data, thus
robbing Facebook of its most important asset. But as I said in my TechCrunch
comments, that type of push will haunt Google when you’ve got search developers
asking why it doesn’t open up its massive search index.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)
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