Some notable blogs are setting up a false dichotomy between “social” and “search” for finding and consuming information. They suggest that Facebook is the “social” alternative to Google’s “search.” This is fundamentally wrong, I argue below. Instead, what we have is a war between two “platforms” neither one of which really fits purely into one of those categories. Both want to attract your eyeballs to their advertisements.
What is Google?
It’s a conduit through which advertisers reach people who have shared their personal preferences with Google. While Google was initially purely a search engine, that is no longer true today. As I wrote yesterday, Google wants to know everything it can about each and every person. Reiterating yesterday’s musings:
Whom do you phone? Google Voice.
To whom do you write? Gmail, Google Wave and Google Buzz.
What do you buy? Google Checkout and Google Product Search.
What do you watch on television? Google TV, which is anticipated to launch with Sony next month.
What do you read? Google Reader and Google Scholar, despite some bumps in the road.
Where do you eat? Google Maps, 800-GOOG-411, Google Places.
What ailments do you have? Google Health, although it appears to be a flop.
Where do you work? Google Profiles.
Where do you live? Google Maps.
What do you look like? Google Profiles and Google Visual Search, perhaps tied together one day.
Where are you? Latitude, Google Buzz and Google Places.
Where did you go and where will you go? Google Calendar.
While the search business fits into this overall picture, it is important to note that very little of the preference harvesting today relies heavily on it.
What is Facebook?
Similar to Google in a sense. Facebook is a conduit through which advertisers reach people who have shared their personal preferences with Facebook. This really begs the question, what do we share with Facebook? Not much when compared to Google. Facebook is far less efficient at harvesting information and has fewer tentacles. These are the questions Facebook may be able to answer about a particular user:
What is your name?
What do you look like?
What is your birthday?
And so on. Facebook also knows what social games you enjoy playing and what you “Like.” Facebook cannot answer most of the questions above that Google can answer. Facebook doesn’t have an email client, a calendar, mapping software, voice transmission, video transmission, etc. Google is much more efficient at harvesting information because it has many more web properties and, not surprisingly, they happen to be the best in most areas.
As an aside, this is where Facebook has truly gone off the deep end: Facebook is giving away the crown jewels. It is now divulging your preferences (“Likes” cannot be made private, for example) to third parties who can archive them indefinitely. This is contrary to the Google platform that seeks to obtain everything tidbit of information about you but tries to lock down that information for Google’s use only. (Buzz was a notable, accidental exception but that mistake was remedied within a couple of days.)
Search vs. Social is bullshit. Google is social. Google services allow me to communicate with friends and family by Gmail, Wave, Buzz, Voice, etc. I can read their thoughts in emails, hear their voices, see their faces, etc. What makes Facebook more “social” than Google? The fact that someone I went to elementary school with posted about her breakfast food and that she spilled orange juice on her new shoes? Now, there’s the “search” issue. This deserves emphasis:
Facebook does not have a map of the entire internet; Google does.
Google is a better platform for other reasons. It is better organized. I know where to find information I seek. My appointments are on my calendar, my emails are in my inbox, etc. I can archive everything. Facebook provides us, primarily, with a stream of crap that tells me about my friends’ virtual farms, mafias, fish, etc. I see a bunch of happy birthday posts too. The Facebook stream is entirely disorganized and it is not archived in a useful way.
The argument that Facebook will somehow whip Google in the near future baffles me. Google is way out of Facebook’s league in so many different areas. It harvests information better. It protects information it harvests better. It offers utility to its users. If provides us with services that Facebook cannot even come close to providing any time soon. So, this Facebook > Google argument that is being tossed around the internet seems like nonsense to me. I put my money where my brain is. I’m holding my GOOG stock and maybe building the position especially since some people were recently fooled by the blogosphere into believing that Facebook is a serious threat to Google. It isn’t right now and couldn’t become one for a very, very long time.
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