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Is Google in Trouble ?

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Google has changed how we search the web and the company has been constantly innovating search. Apart from search it has come up with (or acquired) very successful products like – Gmail, Chrome Browser, Android, Google Docs, Orkut and many more.

Google’s hiring practices consist of bringing in top computer scientists from best schools like Stanford. The culture has been thriving and delivering great products so far.

The only area Google is lacking is ‘Social Networks’ (and everybody is talking about it right now on the web). Google’s attempts to get into mainstream ‘social’ have been largely unsuccessful with – Orkut, DodgeBall, Buzz, Wave etc. They are a company which keeps innovating and there is already ‘Google Me’ in the queue which supposedly could be the Facebook killer!

Why Google needs to worry about Facebook?

Facebook is really a cool social network but there are 100s of social networks around the globe. Why Facebook is the one that is so concerning google?

  • Google runs on page-rank. A presumption that internet is a web of HTML links. Their search is built around this. The game is changing. Now, Internet is becoming more of a stream of updates from your friends than a web of pages. Now, It is a web of people!
  • Google is great at technology, no doubts but what matters more is people. Facebook is closer to people than what Google is!
  • There are alternative search engines and they work pretty well, if not great. So, there is no reason why people won’t be able to switch their search provider – All they are looking for is information.
  • Facebook is hard to switch as all the friends are there, great apps, likes and interests and much more things that defines identity of a person.
  • Facebook is a ‘Social Platform’ company and they have no shortcomings that can’t be met by partnering with platform developer like Zynga. Google doesn’t have this unique capability.
  • The fact that google is doubling salary and letting them lead the teams for the engineers leaving to Facebook is alarming. This makes it evident that Facebook is the future of Internet in Google’s view and fear of it results into irrational decisions.
  • Google doesn’t have a social context and approach. They are focused on search and the web is changing and so is the search.
  • Partnership of Microsoft Bing with Facebook hurts Google in a big way. They couldn’t foresee this opportunity in the past. Now, Bing is grabbing search arising from Facebook and helping Bing grow their traffic. Google has no access to 500+ million users of Facebook as Bing sits right there!
  • The biggest reason why Google needs to worry is time spent by users on Facebook is 3 times the time spent on Google. Following graph demonstrates the same. People giving more time to Facebook and making it more valuable proposition overall!

Google Vs Facebook

  • Facebook is not just a website. They extend beyond it with Facebook Connect and brings ‘Social Web’ to any 3rd party service. In essence, They are making the whole web more open and social!
  • People are generating a ton of content using Facebook and other social networks like twitter. Google has no or very limited control over this vast content. Thus making Google handicapped.

Why is Google not able to innovate in Social Web?

This is an interesting puzzle and here is how I look at it:

  • Google has not given serious attention to ‘Social Web’ and they thought Facebook is just another social network and assumed that their growth will stop at certain point. But that has not happened and now they’ve been a threat to Google itself.
  • Google’s products save time and are result oriented. The ‘Social Networks’ are about ‘wasting more time’ in a fun way. Google’s philosophy of making great and efficient products doesn’t go well with Social Products.
  • Google has been focused on search and it is best at it. It is generating a ton of revenues for Google. So, Google was not concerned about making web more social.

Final thoughts

The only thing that can make google go social is ‘Google Me’. This is a pretty interesting and serious attempt by Google per some ‘sources’ on Quora. Let’s look forward to it and see what it brings to the table!

What do you guys think about Facebook and Google – who will win in the long-term?
Looking forward to your comments.

"Is Google in Trouble ?", 5 out of 5 based on 1 ratings.
  1. Rajan Chandi says

    @Krishana – Thanks for the comment. Facebook is very different from past social networks and it is heavily useful. It will become even more useful in future.

    I would recommend you read about ‘Web of People’ from Tim Berners Lee’s book – ‘Weaving the Web’ for more understanding of this subject matter!

  2. Krishna says

    It is easy to break Facebook domination/social networking but it is very difficult to break search domination.

    People who use social networks tend to change their habits. Just see what happened to myspace.

    When readers are in this euphoric state over Facebook, it is difficult to convince them.

    Users are important but revenue generation and usefulness are more important. users will understand when this madness is over in 2-3 years.

  3. Rajan Chandi says

    @Viral – Actually they are comparable and I will explain in my next article – exactly how Facebook cuts into the ‘search’ pie of Google!

    1. Madhav Shivpuri says

      Rajan, looking forward to that post.

  4. Viral says

    @Rajan…

    As such, Social Media and (Google) Search programs are incomparable. It’s like comparing apples with mangoes, rather than apples with apples. Both have different purposes to serve. Search programs serve its own cause and cannot be satiated through social media and viceversa.

    But, what joins the dot really is the ‘Time’ spend (as you have already pointed out) by the users on the web – that’s where the monetisation aspect comes into play. That is what is keeping apples and mangoes over here on the same comparative weighing table.

    At the end of the day, though Google and Facebook serves diverse aspects of user experience, both the platforms are here to achieve a common objective of ensuring maximum times pent by the weboholics on their respective platforms.

    That’s where the buck stops ! :)

  5. Rajan Chandi says

    @Madhav and @Rabi – It is not just about difference in business models and revenue sources. The whole web is evolving and the Google’s relying on ‘page-rank’ which assumes Internet to be a ‘web of pages’ – is going to be falsified.

    The new Internet is a stream and a ‘web of people’. This means their existing search will become a niche and the Facebook will become mainstream in the longer run. This is because Facebook is creating a user experience to let people hang-out at their site. The google is not able to deliver this hang-out experience so far. This makes Google a ‘use and move on’ niche service of search!

    They will not remain numero uno website in the world and that looks like a lot of loss from business and brand perspective. People have limited amount of time in their life..so, If they gonna give more time to Facebook than obviously they will spend more money there as well. This may mark decline of Google!

    1. Arun Prabhudesai says

      Yes Rajan….you are right…Money will be where people spend time on the Web…and Facebook is the place for that…

      Although, I do not agree with your your last para…Infact, I increasingly feel that tomorrow’s web will be dominated by someone like Facebook, but which also has websearch+wikipedia+quora+Email+ Social Networking built into it.

      And although Facebook has greater chance, Google has all other components in place except “Social Network”.

      I increasingly believe that “Google Me” would decide Google’s tomorrow…what do you guys think ?

      1. Rajan Chandi says

        Even with all the money Google has, It is going to be a uphill battle.

        This is because facebook has
        * Growing Userbase
        * Great Fb Apps created by Developers
        * Best Social Application Development platform possible.
        * Overall, best Social Networks possible, It can’t be better
        * No limitations that can’t be met by partnering with 3rd parties.

        Google will still be there and making money but Facebook will be mainstream, I believe. ‘Google Me’ is kind of a last hope for Google in this direction and Google can surely be #2 if not #1 Social Platform!

  6. Madhav Shivpuri says

    Rajan,

    Good post and good comment by Rabi which I completely agree. First there was the Myspace generation and then the FB generation just took off. Myspace is alive and kicking – its usage is different; I guess musicians still do use it. Now musicians also use Secondlife, Youtube, Twitter and FB to generate traffic and fan following. But there is no end to this. At any point in time, we can talk about a single vertical and who is the leader at a point in time. Wait for an year, the leader could have changed.

    Google need not try to be numero uno in all things digital just like Microsoft tried. You win some, you lose some. Now when we use Youtube, do we even think about Google when using it? When you ask is Google in trouble due to Facebook usage, consider that Youtube belongs to Google, and that time spent on Youtube is 20mins per day according to Alexa. There is lot more advertising that takes place there and youtube videos are embedded all over the internet. So, when one thinks of videos, youtube is the current #1. Now that Google has invested $100 Mn in Zynga, bought another games site, Slide for $228Mn. So when you think of games, Google could become the next destination and people may use less FB. Only time will tell.

    (Sorry for the long winded comment :-))

  7. Rajan Chandi says

    Thank you all for comments.

  8. Arun Prabhudesai says

    Rajan,

    I agree with Brijwhiz as well as Yusuf – It is a great point that you have made here…and something I never thought about….

    “Google’s products save time and are result oriented. The ‘Social Networks’ are about ‘wasting more time’ in a fun way. Google’s philosophy of making great and efficient products doesn’t go well with Social Products.”

    Just excellent…

  9. Vivek Krishnan says

    A really good article, hats off to the writer….

    but

    “Google runs on page-rank. A presumption that internet is a web of HTML links. Their search is built around this. The game is changing. Now, Internet is becoming more of a stream of updates from your friends than a web of pages. Now, It is a web of people! ”

    is not really true. I dont think important announcements are actually going to be released on FB for at least now. They use dedicated blogs, websites etc. All i see on FB is what people are, what are they doing, where are they, where were they iin the last 24 hrs etc.

    People around the world will continue to use Google to search for information, and Facebook/Twitter/Orkut for networking.

    And almost forgot the critical point, as more and more companies realise what kind of time wasters they are, they are not allowing access to these sites on company time, or even monitoring what they say on these sites.

    Personally, I agree with “Rabi Gupta” on the coexistence of these sites with each other.

    Also as you pointed out, FB is nothing more than a black hole which kinda sucks a majority of our time.

  10. Satinder says

    According to a former Google employee – “Google has an environment that viewed social networking as a frivolous form of entertainment rather than a real utility, and I’m pretty sure this viewpoint was shared all the way up the chain of command to the founders.”

    More details here – http://www.gwtindia.com/social-media/

  11. brijwhiz says

    Great article. Was really impressed by the point
    “Google’s products save time and are result oriented. The ‘Social Networks’ are about ‘wasting more time’ in a fun way. Google’s philosophy of making great and efficient products doesn’t go well with Social Products.”

    That was a whole different way of looking at the state of play that I had not realised. cheers.

  12. rabi gupta says

    Hi Rajan,

    real good thoughts. One simple answer to all this is- Every company starts with a unique idea and then work on it for like 5-10 years to gain expertise in that area. Google threatened Microsoft with its open source and free to use technology and Microsoft couldn’t counter that as it didn’t have the expertise in the area of Google. Similarly, Facebook started with a different mission and has gained a good expertise in understanding social web. Now Google is not comfortable with social web, for them Orkut was a side-project and not an experiment. If they have taken Orkut seriously, things could have been different for them.
    But at the end of the day its not their fault too, its how the Ecosystem works. Google is not in trouble, the way Microsoft is doing good (still) in its strong area, Google will also keep on doing. But they can’t win the world, and for that matter, not even Facebook :)

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