Angstro Buy, Shopping, Gaming Investments Point To Multi-Pronged Google Social Strategy
Last week Google acquired Angstro. The site has been described as a way to discover and organize information about individuals across various professional networks. Here’s how Angstro describes itself:
Ångströ represents the ability to hone in on highly focused, relevant news across professional networks. Where search engines such as Google and other news aggregator services have immense infrastructures that return a huge array of random results, Ångströ analyses a wide breadth of information from multiple data sources to deliver very few, yet very intelligent results.
The pundit consensus is that this is about Google’s yet-to-emerge new social networking effort — and I’m sure it is — but there are probably some search-specific applications of this technology that we’ll see in the future.
Mainly the Angstro buy made me wonder what the supposed “Google Me” (as a metaphor for Google’s broader social strategy) will turn out to be. Google now has numerous properties that have explicit or implicit social dimensions: Orkut, Buzz, Latitude, GMail, Maps, Contacts, Calendar, iGoogle, YouTube, Vevo, Google Talk, Google Reader, Picasa, Profile, Docs, (the now abandoned Wave) and more. There’s also a coming Google Music service and, reportedly, a Zynga investment and a gaming site to arrive later.
Google has also reportedly put former mobile chief Vic Gundotra in charge of social. Gundotra is highly capable but it will take intense work, creative inspiration and even luck to figure out how to bring all these disparate pieces together into a coherent and compelling whole.
Yet maybe there isn’t a single “social network” or product per se (Orkut 2.0) that Google has in mind. Perhaps the company is going to embed a social layer into each of its properties, more deliberately and explicitly than it has done to date. However that probably wouldn’t be enough by itself to capture the public’s imagination.
An earlier and very thoughtful presentation by Google Senior User Experience Researcher Paul Adams criticizes Facebook privacy and hints that groups might be the center of a new Google network. Though provocative, groups doesn’t seem splashy enough by itself either. However Google “Social Circles” (contacts + social media content), which is not quite a product but is the basis of social search, does seem to be ripe for further development. The term “circles” even suggests a product name focused on groups.
Gaming and mobile are additional, fruitful areas for Google to attack from a social standpoint, so might shopping be as well. But other than building a kind of “me too” offering, there’s no obvious social media strategy for Google. Orkut, Wave, Buzz and several other weak or shuttered products (e.g., Lively) argue that Google can miscalculate, in some cases badly, when it comes to social and product development.
However with the recent spending and acquisitions Google has signaled that it’s very serious about building a product — or products plural — that will help it compete with Facebook and/or provide a kind of social infrastructure to keep it relevant as the Internet continues to evolve. This is a very public and high stakes effort for the company.
I’m eager to see what it produces.
Postscript: Google just bought social-mobile game development company SocialDeck. So add that into the mix. Gaming definitely is emerging as a primary entry point for Google in its effort to build a social network or more social experience.