Facebook and Myspace: Meet Google.

Google wants to conquer the social networking world without creating an explicit social network.

GoogleSpaceBook anyone?

GoogleSpaceBook anyone?

Rather than trying to revive its Orkut networking site, which has been a flop outside of Brazil, Google is weaving the various components of social networks through its existing services. Your contacts in Gmail and Google Talk, for example, are being turned into a list of “friends” with whom you can share photos from Picasa or blog posts from Blogger.

Another piece of Google’s decentralized social network is an option that lets people create a profile page with photos and the usual tidbits about where you went to school and so on.

On Tuesday, Google began a campaign to get people to create these profiles, using its biggest gun: the Google search engine. If you want to control what people see when they search for your name, create a profile and click the box to have it included in Google search results.

While some people may well want to do anything they can to hide from the prying eyes of surfers around the world, many more in this narcissistic era will want to ascend to the stage Google is offering them.

There are good write-ups of the nuances of this feature from Danny Sullivan, of Search Engine Land, and John Battelle, the author and ad-network entrepreneur.

Are the new profile pages enough to get Google’s ersatz social network to rival Facebook and MySpace? I don’t know. But it doesn’t hurt.

As much Google’s strategy makes a lot of business sense, I think it has some real problems for users. Social networks are not just software with features they are –really—communities. What you do on MySpace, Twitter and Facebook are different because each has different rules about who can see what about you and different norms that have evolved for what is acceptable behavior.

Facebook, for all its missteps, has really defined a high standard of control for users. It’s easy to change which group of people sees what information about you. And you can see how this plays out. Google lets you have a little control over who sees your phone number and other contact information. Otherwise, everything in the profile is public.

More troublesome to me is that the rules and norms of all of Google’s features are hard to figure out. That is in keeping with the company’s style. It evolves products over time, and tends to offer limited options hoping that default settings work for most people.

That may be the best way to make a search engine, map site and maybe even an e-mail service. But I don’t think it’s the best way to create services where people share sometimes very intimate details about themselves.

For me, I don’t really want strangers to see pictures of my kids. But I love to show pictures of my kids to my friends. Maybe Google lets me do this, but the interface is too hard for me to figure out. I also find Google’s version of the social graph Google Friend Connect inscrutable.

I think Google has a huge set of advantages in becoming a hub of social communications and media sharing, with YouTube, Blogger, Gmail and of course its search engine. But the company and its users may well be served by bringing all these features into a more coherent interface around which user expectations can be built.

When it comes to your personal thoughts, contact information and your photos — be they of your kids or your bachelor party — saying trust the black box just isn’t good enough.

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~ by Travis on 04/23/2009.

One Response to “Facebook and Myspace: Meet Google.”

  1. […] John Ryan | Blog placed an observative post today on Facebook and Myspace: Meet Google.Here’s a quick excerptGoogle wants to conquer the social networking world without creating an explicit social network. Goo… […]

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