How Google Is Gearing Up For Facebook Showdown

  • Author: Niall
  • Niall Harbison,

You will have seen me writing a good bit

about the impending war between Facebook and Google over the social web. I'm not going to go in to the finer details of the story behind why Google have Facebook in the cross hairs but we will take a look at some of the tools Google will have at it's disposal once it does launch it's Facebook competitor. The most obvious thing to say is that Google have tried social in the past with Google Wave, Google Buzz and even Orkut but the difference this time is that they are putting some very serious resource and money in to Google me. History has shown that Google often fails at social but this time they seem to be taking a measured steady approach backed by lots of cash and resources. Here is how Google is lining up it's chips for their latest run at social...

Slide

I really thought there would be more buzz around this deal

as Slide is a well established company and I personally think Google did a good but of business on this one. The real question is how Google is going to bring all these gaming elements together in to one smooth social experience. It sounds like Google are going to launch the games platform at the end of the year and it could even sit outside Google Me but the chances are there will be some sort of social integration. No matter how good the products are that Google are buying these are essentially talent acquisitions and the teams behind these companies will essentially be moulded in to a small army to take on Facebook. No matter how easy a notion that sounds like believe me it is not and I think Google may struggle to have one simple streamlined product.

Shutting Down Wave

Just over a year ago Google Wave was trumpeted as a new way to communicate. Little over a year later and Google announced that last week they were closing it down. The big surprise was just how quickly Google was willing to discard something that just a year ago they thought was so important. I don't think they would have discarded it so quick if it wasn't for Google me but it's clear that they want all resources and focus to be on the new project.

Zynga Investment

Zynga

has come out of nowhere to build itself in to a huge social gaming company with insane revenues. It has of course pretty much built itself on the back of the Facebook platform but Google recently made an investment of around $150 million (the exact fee has not been disclosed) and all the noises coming from both sides seem to suggest that it is a huge strategic deal more than anything. Google have clearly realized just how much emphasis Facebook place on social games and how much interaction they create and decided that games are something they want to put at the heart of their social strategy. Zynga for their part want their games to be seen by as many people as possible and if Google can give them another platform to be seen by many then it really is a win win situation for them and their revenues will continue to soar.

Android

Google have been making huge strides with Android and we all know how important mobile is starting to become for social networking. Facebook already have great traction in this space but with Google making the operating system for more and more of the world's phones this has to be seen as an enormous advantage for Google should they ever get close to Facebook. As location and check ins become more important Google will look to make some strides in this market and really take advantage of their mobile advantage.

Existing Google Products

So much is being made about the products that Google are snapping up to try and conquer social but one of the biggest advantages are the products that it already runs. Facebook has to develop and improve it's analytics for pages but Google has the best free product the web has to offer in Google Analytics. Facebook's mail service has always been extremely poor but Google has the best mail service in the world in Google Mail. I don't need to say anything about search. Google Voice, chat and places are all strong as well. I don't think having all these successful products should be underestimated.

Market Research

Google have been conducting market research

in Dublin and Zurich with questions being asked about what people would most like to get out of a social experience on Google. The fact that this market research is being carried out around the world rather than just locally in mountain view shows just how serious this project is going to be. This is not just some little pet project for a couple of engineers but is clearly a company wide product that Google is placing a lot of emphasis on. Listening to what it's users actually want and crucially finding out what the weaknesses are at Facebook will be crucial and Google will be hoping it can do that through market research.

Jambool Acquisition

Just this week Google made it's latest acquisition when they shelled out another $100 odd million for social currency site Jambool. Google wouldn't be Google if they didn't have a strong monetization strategy behind everything they do and it is clear that Google can see the huge revenues that Zynga and Facebook generate and fancy a bit of that for themselves. Facebook have recently been rolling out their Facebook credit system to more user profiles and I personally believe that although Facebook makes plenty of cash already it is only when they introduce Facebook credits across the site that the real money will start flowing, it will be Facebook's adsense moment and that is what Google is trying to do with their move for Jambool.

Possible Future Targets?

For me the site that makes the most sense for Google to buy is Gowalla

. I would have said Foursquare but they have plotted their own course for world domination with their recent round of funding. There is no doubt that location based services are becoming increasingly important and integrating them in to Google me would be a great coup at the start but the one word of caution in this area is that Google has history here when they acquired Dodgeball (A company founder by Foursquare's founders) before shutting it down and killing it. Yelp has also been mentioned and Google came close to that deal at the turn of the year but the price is starting to get a little rich on that purchase. Yelp would be a good fit though as it could be a competitor to Facebook fan pages and local search. Either way I don't think Google have put the check book away yet and there could be some very tasty purchases in the next couple of months.

Will It Work?

My feeling is that it won't. I don't think Google think in the right way to be able to conquer social. I think they are pretty smart in the way they are going after the games side of things and I think they will have a lot of success there. I do however think that games will work for Google and they may even monetize it effectively and open up a new revenue stream. I just don't think people want to move all their data. People don't want to share their photos on a new site, find all their friends and generally build their social profiles from scratch. There is no doubt that Google are putting some serious resources in to this project and hope to offer Facebook a serious challenge but I just don't think they will do it.

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