By now it has become well known that Google is planning a competitor to Facebook. While many believe that it may be too little too late for Google, the reality is that it’s a matter of survival for the company at this point. Google’s automated algorithms have become inefficient in that their systems are somewhat easy to game and despite Marissa Mayer once claiming that search is 90 percent solved, the reality is that it isn’t anywhere close.
Every day I perform searches on Google which simply fail. For me, searching has become a rapid process of trial an error. Enter the Like button, the social solution to search, and the replacement of the link as a voting mechanism. The people as a whole are more effective at determining what content is relevant and most of those people are unfortunately not effective at creating links. Case in point: there were 126 million blogs as of 2009 (easy to create sites where creating links is easy) and there are now over 500 million Facebook users actively clicking on like buttons around the web.
While Mark Zuckerberg is consistently dismissive about his attack on Google, it’s not exactly a secret. He has on numerous instances made references to the Google’s information collection methods, most significantly in David Kirkpatrick’s recent book, The Facebook Effect (as described here).
Reduction Of Friction
The bottom line is this: the Facebook like button has completely reduced the friction for the common users to vote for content. As I’ve written on numerous instances, the reduction of friction will result in the like replacing the link. It won’t be immediate but it also won’t take too long. Google knows this and now they’re threatened big time. As a result, they’re bringing out the big guns. They’ve hired some of the top social media minds in the industry, they’ve acquired and invested in a number of social startups, and they’ve devised a plan which appears to focus on two things: privacy/friend groups (Facebook’s achilles heel, as described here) and the like button.
While I’m not quite sure what Google’s replacement for the like button will be, it’s pretty clear that it has to be something. The link will die slowly as the most important currency on the web. The biggest problem is that it’s too easy to game. With Google.me looming over Facebook (just as Facebook Questions looms over Quora), things are heating up.
According to Anthony Ha, the company is on “lockdown”. If Facebook really does have Google’s secret plan, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the company a little bit more motivated to begin churning out more improvements to the site in an effort to further solidify it’s position against the search giant. Whether or not employees are being advised to work longer hours is unknown, however Google must really have a solid Like button replacement if Facebook feels threatened.
If there’s some way that Google manages to launch their own like button and is able to use this new voting mechanism to impact search results, there’s no doubt that publishers will implement it. In the meantime however, Facebook is the reigning king of social and more importantly the “Like”. Personally, I think it’s important that Google should have a competitor moving forward and I’m personally rooting for Facebook, which despite 500 million users, is still technically the underdog.
Do you think Google’s impending “Facebook killer” will actually have a shot at damaging Facebook?