Google – The Web’s Largest Social Network

    June 22, 2007

Blogging, email, IM, and telephone make it easy to keep in touch with your real friends. Social networks are hyped, but tend to have low value traffic because they don’t effectively separate signal from noise. The only people who have time for them are people hawking crap, people looking to waste time, and spam bots.

Sure Google owns Orkut, but they don’t need it. Google already is a social network, and became one by targeting and partnering with the power users and influencers, but few people think of them as a social network.

If you are a webmaster there is a good chance that Google delivers your ads, controls your feed, is your analytics provider, and is a leading source of traffic to your site. News sites and other trusted editorial partners are rewarded with high Google rankings, and become addicted to Google’s traffic the way LookSmart was addicted to Microsoft’s traffic a few years ago.

On top of having touch-points with most webmasters, Google also has touch-points with mass information consumers. Google’s Toolbar gives them web history, which knows where you have been and how long you were there. Google Reader is the most popular feed reader service on the web. They know what voices you trust and subscribe to, and allow you to share your subscriptions or favorite items with friends.

Google’s personalized homepage is also the most functional, customizable, and useful service by any of the major portals. Google gadgets are easy to create and syndicate, and Google allows you to publish gadgets or tabs with anyone.

Mini Web
Gadgets powered by Google

They go so far as recommending information via the interesting items for you gadget, a recommendations tab on customized homepages, and toolbar recommendations.

Google Maps allows you to link to any location, adds data layers from trusted third parties, and accepts public comments on maps.

YouTube makes it easy to upload and syndicate videos, and now those are highly ranked in Google’s search results. Look at YouTube’s TestTube to see the community features they are planning.

Google offers an auto-complete feature, which makes it easy to refine your search based on the searches of others. They also show related sites and hot searches, and let you note sites you like via Google Notebook. If you don’t find their results entirely relevant they make it easy to create a custom search engine using their data.

Keep track of time and your projects using Google Calendar and Google Docs.

Sure Google has Orkut, but they don’t need it. By default Google keeps hold of your attention so they can use it to improve their relevancy algorithms and ad targeting. Tie in search personalization with automated ad optimization and their information sharing tools and it is easy to think of Google as the web’s largest social network, though most people don’t think of them that way, largely because they put information at the center of it, and are so good at separating signal from noise.