I don’t like talking about current events much, because they have a tendency to soon be not-so-current. But one in particular may signal the tipping point of a trend that is of extreme relevance to the way you and I find useful information.
The rumor is that Google is developing a true Facebook competitor called “Google Me.” I’m not interested in the details of whether they are, but rather the facts behind why Google needs to.
Why Google shouldn’t?
There are always the concerns when a business gets away from its core, and Google has had its share of outright bumbles. Buzz and Wave may not be great, but they aren’t horrible either. And when you’re the size of Google, you don’t pretend to live in just one box. In fact, you could say the acquisition of Youtube was brilliant, as Youtube is now the world’s number two search engine (behind the almighty G itself.) Youtube might never turn a profit, but there’s no telling how valuable the data under the surface might be.
Which brings us to the reason Google ought to be firing up a major competitor to Facebook: because Facebook may yet provide the greatest threat to Google’s core search business.
There was a time when a human being could carry all the world’s knowledge in his or her brain.
Then, after Gutenberg’s printing press disrupted the technology of information storage and transmission, we suddenly had more data in more places than we could possibly touch, and the paradigm for life success changed. Your success was no longer as much about what you knew, but about what you could find.
If you’re my age, you had to do a paper in junior high where you invaded the card catalog and turned in a report with a stack of index cards, to prove you’d done the research. The Research was the skill that was being graded, not so much the conclusion.
In an even more modern sense, we have Google. There are people who use Google for search, and there are people who really know how to dig down and get relevant results quickly. “Google Ninja” is not an official job description, but if you fill that role in your office your boss is loathe to fire you.
Yet Google is in danger of being bypassed by an even more useful tool: your friends. In the future, we’re not going to be successful based on what we find, but rather what our network can find for us. We’re entering an age of Human Powered Search.
The New Dynamic
In the future, when you want to know something you will first turn to your friends. Maybe not all will be full-on “friends,” but rather acquaintances with which you have a history and some context. People you have chosen to give your trust.
How many of these have you seen on Facebook or Twitter?
- Where can I go to get a good haircut?
- Lunch recommendations?
- Anyone who has a daughter who can babysit my kids?
- Does anyone know how to get the smell of vomit out of the back of an SUV?
(Don’t laugh… questions 1 and 4 have actually been posed by people I know personally.)
Dark Revelation in Mountain View
When your first stop is with your friends, you might not have a second stop. And that is what is keeping Google awake at night. Facebook does indeed represent a challenge to Google’s core business, which is search. Having read Mark Zuckerberg’s initial philosophy behind Facebook, I don’t know that he (or the ‘legitimate’ founders) had any inkling that it might lead in this direction. I don’t thinkÂ GutenbergÂ saw that his coming information revolution would help take down the Catholic Church, either.
But you’d better think that The Church of Google does. And the Apocalypse itself would be an unholy union between Facebook and Bing – accelerating the adoption of an alternate way to find what you need.
Imagine a Bing interface that takes your query, and brings you traditional algorithm results along with the recommendations of your friends. It ports it right in. In fact, instead of giving you an instant answer, you just leave the browser tab open for a little while and let the answers percolate. A true Decision and Recommendation engine, fueled by the people you already like and trust.
So that’s why Google is thinking about Google Me. And if they aren’t, they will go down as the largest quill-maker the Earth has ever known.
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