by Devin Coldewey
Google always played a long game, but failed to in social. Why didn’t they bide their time, refining their ideas, pretending total disinterest? Making Facebook seem like the only game in town has many benefits. People distrust monopolies. If people feel they are choosing to be on Facebook, they will justify that choice. If the choice is made for them, they will find a reason to resent it. Google must know this, because they experience it every day. So why did they jump the gun? The data! That beautiful, plentiful, personal data! Google is a datavore; its reason to exist is to organize all the world’s data, using ads to fund its habit. And on the table before them, a feast unprecedented in depth and variety! Imagine the amount of data produced by a single day of Facebook’s operations. But, like Tantalus, Google is prohibited from reaching and and taking it even though it’s right… there. Why did Google launch a social network? The same reason a child snatches a cookie from the cookie jar. They simply couldn’t resist.
Could Google ever have won? I think so. But not by blitz. By envelopment. Google’s presence is felt all over the net. Remember that browser plug-in that sounded a siren whenever it detected Google in any way, shape, or form? People tolerate having Google everywhere because, for the most part, it’s a neutral presence, like streetlamps in a city. You’re logged into Google like you’re a resident of the city. You don’t think about it, and you don’t have to think about it.
The opportunity this gives Google is simply to be where you are, and have you know it and not mind. That’s huge. Facebook gets flak for being where you are, because Facebook is a place you go to, not a presence that surrounds you. Facebook is a personal place, something you log into, and you don’t want to have it following you around. On the other hand, you expect to turn around and find Google there, the way you expect your own shadow. The natural thing to do given this advantage is, in fact, what Google did. They just did it too hard. They made a whole competing service, completely empty and more or less disconnected from everything, and threw it at the enemy. It seems to me that they only needed one part of it: the +1 button.
via Tech Crunch