The world discovered a little bit more about this mysterious "Google Me" project this week, when Googlers, including CEO Eric Schmidt opened up (just a little bit) at the company's Zeitgeist event.
The main thing that has been revealed is that Google Me will not be a new social network from Google to try and compete with Facebook, but rather a "social layer" added to existing Google products. If you think about it, this strategy makes more sense, as Google already has many of the features of a great social network in its various properties. As I've said over and over again, integration among these is the key, and "Google Me" just might turn out to be that integration that connects Google's offerings, effectively making Google itself the social network.
Who has the competitive edge? Facebook or Google? Share your thoughts here.
Michael Arrington at TechCrunch was able to pick up one specific detail from unnamed "sources who've worked with Google on the product". They say that Google Me will produce an activity stream generated by all Google products, and that Google Buzz has been rewritten to be the host of it all.
I'm guessing the existing Google Profiles, which already host the Google Buzz content will be central.
Nick O'Neill at AllFacebook thinks photos and videos are going to be key elements in the competition between Google and Facebook. He writes, "Between tagging and the feed exposure, photos account for the largest percentage of Facebook users’ time on site. While video is also increasing, photos were responsible for most of Facebook's initial growth. In fact Facebook Photos now has more market share than all the competitors combined (including Google-owned Picasa). Google also clearly has another massive weapon in their arsenal: YouTube. The video site is by far the most popular of all video sites in the world."
"YouTube is so popular that it ranks just behind Facebook in Alexa’s ranking of the most popular online sites," he adds. "YouTube is also a relatively social experience to begin with, however there is most definitely plenty of room to grow."
YouTube is easily the greatest asset Google has in terms of social media. You may recall that YouTube began requiring all users to have a Google account. That's no coincidence, I'm sure.
So let's compare Google (as one big social network) to Facebook, feature by feature.
Facebook has the news feed. Google is reportedly working on the activity stream. Facebook has chat. Google does too (text, voice, and video). Facebook has photos. Google does too, with Picasa Web Albums and various other complementary photo-related offerings. Facebook has videos. Google has YouTube (and Google Video). Facebook has notes. Google has Blogger. Facebook has Pages. Google has Profiles. Google has email. Facebook may at some point (MySpace just added it last year). Facebook has games. Google is working on getting more. Facebook has news publications setting up Pages. Google has Google News. Facebook has the Open Graph. Google has search (all kinds of search...and maps).
Facebook has Facebook Ads. Google has AdWords, AdSense, and Doubleclick. Facebook has applications. Google has Google Apps, the Apps Marketplace, Android, the Android Marketplace, Chrome, Chrome OS, the Chrome Web Store, Google TV which will support Android apps and web apps. Google is also trying to get a music service off the ground. And let's not forget Google Calendar and Google Reader - two very user-personalized products.
That's not everything, but I think that covers a pretty big chunk of what people want to use social networks for. I've got to say, on paper, I have to give Google the advantage. When you combine all of Google's offerings, I wonder how that user base stacks up to Facbook's 500 million. Yahoo claims 600 million. I'm guessing Google's number is pretty high, but unfortunately, we don't know what that is.
People have often talked about Google's "social media failures", but Google just may have the biggest social network of all, so I'll reiterate: it's all in the integration. Google just needs to make it happen in a way that people can clearly see it all come together and actually use it all together.
Speaking as both a user of various Google products and a user of Facebook, I'm fairly certain that they will co-exist just fine.
Will Google finally get social right? Tell us what you think.