Does Google have a product to compete against Facebook?
I think the answer is yes but it’s not iGoogle, no matter how much you tweak it.
In August Google started to add “social gadgets” to iGoogle. There are 19 in the first batch. This post on the Google blog says that social gadgets ” … let you share, collaborate and play games with your friends on top of all the things you can already do on your homepage.” Google claims over 60,000 gadgets total.
But iGoogle doesn’t have Facebook’s (continuously updating) feed of Friends’ status updates. This feature lets Facebook Friends be part of a group conversation in writing (which means that people can join and leave the conversation as they please and there is a history to refer to).
It doesn’t have even have a way of broadcasting short free-form messages among Friends. (I did suggest this twitter-like gadget at the iGoogle product ideas website. As of this writing there are 3 votes for and 2 against.)
But I think there is another way of looking at the relationship between Google and Facebook.
Google is very good at gathering and sharing information. Facebook as being very good at handling personal relationships – over 300 million people good with over 75% outside the USA.
The labels in each circle in the diagram show the major task that each does better than the other.
Given the current direction of both companies, both look as though they want to be in the space marked A in the diagram and here is where I think Google has a good shot at winning.
If Facebook is a “personal life social network” and Google is an “online products and services” company what is the section in the middle? One definition could be a “work life social network,” and here, I think, Google could produce a winning product with only a small investment.
Our relationship with our work colleagues is different from those we have with our friends. At work we have defined goals and communicate with our colleagues to meet those goals. Our “work life social network” is more formal and arranged around products we use in our work.
Let’s call the product that Google puts in that space “Sonnet” (simply derived from “social network,” but also expressing the ideas of a complex and beautiful whole made up of clearly-defined parts.) I’ll describe how I think it might work in the next post.