Thursday, October 7, 2010

Google Does Not Get Social -- Yet

I like Google. They gave me one-stop window to look out the world of noisy information, and immediately filter and sort the information by relevancy. They just made it better by making this sorting based on prediction so that I can find information by chance. When I blog, I have dozen tabs open on my browser, each showing different keywords to pull up sources. I'm a big fan of Google.

So it pains me to see how Google seems oblivious to what's really driving explosive social network growth. When Eric Schmidt described his social strategy as a layer on top of Google services to enhance search experience, I tried to read between his lines to see if there is any hint of him getting this social paradigm shift. To my disappointment, even after listening to Eric's conversation multiple times, I couldn't pick out anything suggesting that he understood this social paradigm shift.

Search, Don't Filter And Sort

Anything But 'Future Of Social Network'
Well, let me show you what Google is missing out. People are calling Google as "search" engine. But if you think about what you get after you enter your keywords, it's really not a search. Google returns you sorted list of what it thinks you want in the order of relevancy from the vast sea of noisy information universe. Look what I've got from entering "future of social network".

This may sound like a narcissistic example, but search like this happens all the time. Yes, it would be interesting to look at how my blog ranks from all the other keywords matching "future of social network", but what would be more interesting is information about my blog site. What are other sites that talk about my blog? Is there any site that has links to my blog? Have my blogs been sited in any article?

Facebook Gets It
None of these are available today on Google. Why? Because of 62 million so-called "search" results. They are all buried in there somewhere. But no tools to discover them.

Now I do the same search on Facebook. Even before I enter my second word, Facebook returns my blog site. Bingo!

Social Is Not A Layer, It's Relationship

No offence to Eric, but social is not a layer. What's important is relationship. When I look for 'future of social network', it should mean this blog site. When someone who wants to find out about future of social networking trend and type 'future of social network', it should mean future of social networking trends out of all available information on the web.

This becomes even more compelling when you start introducing human relationship. When I search for my friend Larry, I want to find out my (fictional) friend's work on the web, not Larry Ellison from Oracle. This exactly what Facebook is doing now.

Context Matters Too

To make things worse for Google, Facebook is getting this social paradigm shift. Facebook just announced Facebook Group yesterday, and will be rolling out in coming weeks to their 500 million users. Facebook Group is all about contexts and places. When people share ideas and information, it's done in a certain context, and based on the context, they may have different meaning.

Jokes exchanged by friends at the bar have different meaning than research paper published by journal articles. Facebook Group is trying to augment our conversation with these contexts to give more meaning to our interactions. And they are doing this without implementing complex algorithm. They are asking users to do these for them. By making it easy for users to create their own contexts, Facebook Groups, they are harnessing the power of social network. That's the paradigm shift.

So I hope Mr. Schmidt is really hiding something between his lines. Otherwise he'll be in for a surprise. Just like Orkut surprised him with its unexpected spotty success:


  1. Certainly, with searches such as your own blog, Facebook performs better, because it has personally-identifying information about you (e.g. your Likes, your groups/pages, your links, etc.). It seems a bit unfair to compare Facebook to Google based on this one heavily-biased-towards-Facebook search query.

  2. Maybe. But consider the following:

    1) I was logged on to Google and belongs to Google. Google has this info already, but just not providing an option to use them when searching.

    2) Google is aware of this problem. They have acquired Angstro late August for that reason (Angstro was doing Google Alerts filtered by LinkedIn Connection).

    3) Google has been on social gaming acquisition spree this summer, and it's clear that Google understands the criticality of gaming component in successful bootstrapping of social network site. They are even forging ties with Zynga.

    All these point to Google eventually turning to social. I see it as question of when.

  3. Hi Jae,

    I agree with you that we need more specific results and though they have huge data with them Google till now is not doing that much different processing with them.

    What I don't think right was the example you gave. Firstly, if you search "future of social network" in Google and click Blogs on the left the first result is this blog. Secondly, my search on Facebook did not return your blog. As you know your blog and its details, isn't it better if I, a complete stranger to the blog, find it through search?

    Yes, I agree with you that when you are searching for your friend Facebook rocks. But most of the time we search when we are looking for something unknown. We definitely need Google here.

    What I think is that both have their own advantages and we have options. And surely with such huge data with them, Google can give us more filtering options than just categorizing the results into images, blogs etc.

    Lastly about the details of your blog (like the links etc.) do Facebook offer them (other than comments and likes)?

    Sumit Surai