Google has always been the forerunner of technology and innovation. In the context of social networking sites, Facebook enjoys an undisputed monopoly and according to statistics by Experian Hitwise, it even bypassed traffic volumes of Google during March of 2010. When the founder of Digg, Kevin Rose, sparked rumors of Google launching a social networking site named “Google Me”, it triggered a huge debate as to what it will look like and if it is going to be competition for Facebook.
There have been mixed reactions to the launch of Google Me. While Fox News said it would be a lamentable bridge between Google’s Buzz and Wave, FastCompany was of the opinion that existing user data would be scraped to create expanded profile sets. SF Weekly claimed Google’s new move was like shooting arrows in the dark to see what would click with users.
However, none of these speculations seem in accordance with what Google is all about: focus on simplicity and functionality instead of appearances. Google products have never been viciously monstrous in their expansion or presence, unlike Facebook, which has overwhelmed the entire social network segment. Almost all products from Google have been launched as Beta projects to enable users to get a feel for the products beforehand. Facebook, by contrast, has a very top-down approach wherein they have complete knowledge of the product’s objective prior to launch. The objective of companies like Facebook is to retain users on the site as opposed to Google’s approach of letting user behavior dictate future product purpose and vision.
Google Me will likely be a gleaned, comprehensive repository of customized search results that define a user’s presence online. It would probably comprise links, photos, profiles, feeds and everything associated with a user’s activity on their profile. Unlike Facebook, which can often paint false images of users online, Google Me will primarily depict realistic user profiles based on their search behavior and patterns. Google Me will allow users to control the way they are pictured and presented online by customizing all the search behavior information that is presented on their profiles.
By being able to cull searchable information, users can tailor, filter and add on new information to create a customized profile online. Other users get to see a profile that the user prefers instead of random irrelevant or extraneous links. Unlike Facebook where users typically find each other by name, on Google Me, searching for others would be far more intuitive and based on associations, location or interests. Just like Friend Connect from Google, which helps others join your website and start a community, share aspects from external sites and deliver targeted advertisements through Adsense, Google Me is anticipated to develop along similar lines.
So the concept of social networking from the perception of Google Me is expected to revolve around content sharing and connections, something diametrically opposite to Facebook‘s approach; personal landing pages functioning as content hubs. Unlike Facebook, which needs continual improvement to sustain user interest, Google Me would not have to handle such overheads because of the intuitive content-sharing model. While Google Me has generated a lot of buzz, a mammoth like Facebook will not be replaced anytime soon. However, what is interesting is that previous models based on content hubs adopted across all social networking sites might give way to more radical, intuitive models such as the one anticipated from Google.