While Facebook, Twitter and Apple continue to dominate the headlines and most of our shortening attention spans, Google continues to plow ahead, beating analysts’ earnings estimates and innovating behind the scenes. It’s easy to forget that Google owns YouTube, Android and that it gently launched a new social networking service in the last few months. We’re so familiar with Google and its dominant search engine that we simply take it for granted.
But while we’re enjoying Google’s engineering expertise and design brilliance, the company is continuing to innovate and strengthen its areas of weakness. Google still derives the majority of its revenue from search and its contextual advertising offerings. They are and will remain the lifeblood of the company, and at present they are virtually unchallenged in the marketplace. They are so strong in search and advertising that the company now competes with Apple in the cell phone market and is trying to mount a challenge to Facebook in the social networking space.
The Android operating system for mobile phones has been highly successful and the numbers are there to support its claims of superiority over the iPhone – but the debate over which is the “better” system rages on. Chrome is a strong browser, but it’s fairly difficult to establish a distinct advantage over long-time players like Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox. Google+ is probably where Google is taking its largest leap in trying to take a piece of Facebook’s pie.
Early reviews are strong for Google+ and it’s true that the network offers some privacy advantages over Facebook. But while Google+ may be easily superior in terms of functionality, Facebook’s perceived shortcomings may be some of its greatest strengths. The voyeur aspect of Facebook is probably it’s greatest draw for casual users.
People spend hours on Facebook everyday, not so that they can post their every whim and activity, but so they can watch to see what “other people” are saying. And they’re not so much interested in their “real” friends. After all, they probably speak to those people and interact with them regularly. People want to know what their old high school crush is doing with his or her day and they check back regularly just to see if that oddball from work has something new on their wall. This is all done anonymously and without response.
Google+ engineered that long-distance voyeur game out of its social network, which might be attractive so some. But its the distinctive element of Facebook that keeps people coming back. I wouldn’t write off Google’s social network just yet, but I think the company is best left to focus in areas outside of social networking, at least until it can identify some areas where it can “out-social” Facebook.
By Buzzle Staff and Agencies Published: 7/15/2011