Google: You Have the Same Thing as Facebook – Why Not Promote It?

Google is sitting on a gold mine opportunity right now and all I hear is complaining from their employees.  Matt Cutts Deactivated his Facebook account and Tweeted about it to tell the story.  Chris Messina called Facebook the dreaded “evil” word, and criticized the idea for being decentralized.  Frankly, I’m getting tired of it and it’s making Google look desperate.  Instead, here’s what I’d rather see Google doing:

Promote the Heck Out of Google Social Graph API

I don’t get it – Google employees are criticizing Facebook for not being decentralized when Facebook did just that.  With the OpenGraph Protocol, any platform on the web can now implement a similar Pages network and integrate with the network of Pages Facebook is bringing into its own network. The opportunity is open to all, not just Facebook.  Facebook even went to the extent of releasing that protocol under the Open Web Foundation agreement, solidifying that they were okay with others copying it.

Google has been promoting something similar – XFN links and FOAF attachments (along with “me” relationship identifiers to identify an individual as the same person across the web).  In fact, Google built an API around it so others can have access to these protocols.  Guess what?  Facebook has an API as well for the OpenGraph protocol (called, quite similar “Graph API”).  Has Google opened up their Social Graph API? No. (meaning, not any other network can copy the protocol of the API and use it as their platform as well)  Neither has Facebook.  There’s nothing wrong with that – they have to compete.

Google has a huge opportunity right now to be riding the coattails of Facebook on this announcement by promoting its SocialGraph API and how it’s a little better for the web than what Facebook is doing with its API around the OpenGraph.  Rather than complain about what Facebook is doing, why not take the positive route and push that you have something better?  Google has an incredible opportunity here to finally make the SocialGraph API really big, and they’re squashing it by spending their energy canceling their Facebook accounts and criticizing their efforts publicly.  I think it’s totally the wrong move for Google to be making right now.  Their PR department needs to get ahold of their employees and formulate a strategy for response.

Promote the Heck Out of Google Friend Connect

On top of the APIs and OpenGraph or SocialGraph related protocols (again, emphasis on the protocol being the open part of both networks – none of the other stuff, on both Google and Facebook’s side is), all that was launched by Facebook on Wednesday was a series of Widgets that lie on top of all this to make implementation of everything very easy.  Google has the same thing, yet I have not heard one peep from Google employees about it since then.

Google’s product is called Friend Connect.  Look at the Friend Connect page of widgets here and then look at the OpenGraph Social Plugins page here and tell me how they differ?  The main difference is Google actually has more widgets than Facebook does.  Kevin Marks, former Google employee who initiated OpenSocial and the Friend Connect program at Google, was quick to point out to me on Twitter that even Friend Connect has a like button (you can see it on his iPad Knees Up site in the upper-right here), and it requires a Google login to use!  How is that any different than what Facebook is offering?  You can see an example of Friend Connect in action over to the right where you see everyone’s profile pictures (note you didn’t even have to log in to see those, and there is no opt-out).

This is Google’s time to shine – show businesses that they can promote Twitter users and iGoogle users and Buzz users and Orkut users, and provide all the same functionality Facebook is providing, just as easy as they are (with the exception of that extremely simple Graph API Facebook just launched).  Come up with new features that compete where you’re not at their level yet.  The world doesn’t know about this yet.  Google has more people using its network than Facebook does – Google needs to flaunt this, not complain.

Start Building on Facebook’s OpenGraph API and Stop Complaining

I’m sure I’ll get plenty of complaining responses by Google employees and former Google employees from this, but, I really hope they take this to heart and rather than argue with me on this, just go out and promote the products that they have.  They potentially have something even bigger than what Facebook has, and it’s extremely important that the world knows about this.

Google really should consider taking advantage of this new protocol by Facebook – integrate it on its own sites, just as it expects Facebook to do with FOAF and XFN.  Find ways to search and index this data in ways that Facebook just doesn’t have the advantage.  They should find ways to integrate Facebook login (it’s just OAuth 2.0 now!) into their Friend Connect login process – Facebook’s being completely open in this.

I’ve been arguing on Twitter with Kevin Marks about Google’s past attempts to integrate Facebook Connect into Friend Connect.  They were denied, because they were displaying user data without user permission before.  He referred to this page in the Terms of Use for Facebook.  The thing is, Facebook has provided means around this problem.  Facebook is all about user privacy, even down to the developers that integrate their platform.  Google got shut down because they weren’t using the means Facebook set out to use their data.  There is a specific permissions API Facebook released within a month after Google launched Facebook support in Friend Connect (and got shut down), just to solve Google’s problem and Google never used it.

It’s time Google start accepting these Facebook social graphs.  Let us bring our Facebook friends into Google’s network – there’s not even a storage limit any more!  Google needs to start playing nice or they’re going to get left in the dust.  It’s time to stop complaining and take the ball back into your own court, Google.  Otherwise I’m going to have no choice but to abandon Google products and go where my real friends are playing.  That’s not a threat – it’s just the reality of where I’m being forced to go.

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19 thoughts on “Google: You Have the Same Thing as Facebook – Why Not Promote It?

  1. When I want to send a message to a friend, I usually log in into Google Mail. In fact, I'm almost nonstopped logged in into GMail. Problem: I don't have every email adress of every friend I need to communicate with. Sometimes I have their email, sometimes we are only friends on Facebook.
    Why isn't it possible to search all my Facebook friends and send them a message from within GMail? Google would know what I'm writing about and may present some ads they think I would like to click on?

    Besides that, I find Google Friend Connect highly complicated and irritating. Google's internationalization for their Friend Connect site sucks (half of it is in English and the other half in bad German) and doesn't help to clarify what I'm able to do and why I should do it.

    Like

  2. Richard, I agree with all your points 100%. Google needs to stop
    complaining and fix their own products that compete, while at the same time
    recognizing people are on other services out there.

    Like

  3. I second that, you knocked this one out of the park Jesse. Social web strategy 101 but valid points given recent reactions to the real face of Google (to us tech blog readers). Dewitt & Matt whom I both enjoy reading. Dewitt did give props to Brett Taylor's smooth api & platform mastery.

    Like

  4. Jesse, caught a couple of minutes of you at the f8 press release on Robert's video. Whether by design or not you are taking the role of the voice of the independent developer. We love easy, common standard API and Facebook gave us that with the recent update.

    Now if we can only get Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to really open up their knowledge layers as opposed to small bits of data we might accelerate what I suspect is inevitable. A massive diverse webscape of open data channelled and filtered by thousands of players in the information business. Social graphs weren't meant to be owned by companies, they have formed out of a human need of connection. All public or all private appear to be the only ways to handle networks so that users understand where there data goes.

    I had setup an rss feed to my facebook news feed so I could read it remotely. I ended up disconnecting the app out of fear of countering privacy settings, but now I'm forced to certain narrow windows to acces my friends data (service based as opposed to feed based apps). While I have a number of gripes with Facebook (everyone and no one should own our social networks, if they kick me out I lose connectivity to my friends data) the recent updates were moves in the right direction. I kinda hope this is the inside influence of the Friendfeed team.

    Like

  5. Do you feed your blog posts to buzz? I find myself spending more time
    reading there as I can pull updates a feeds. I could grab your twitter
    updates as a feed as long as it doesn't go over their rate limit.

    Like

  6. Mark, thank you – I hope to represent well 🙂 I think of all things we can
    take comfort in the fact that Facebook is now letting us store this data,
    which means that technically, Facebook does *not* own your friends' data.
    This means developers can provide solutions that enable you to download
    that data and own your own social graph, and port it wherever you like.

    Like

  7. Well put. It's much more comforting as a developer and user to have
    choices and selective sharing into and put of other networks. It
    promotes trust, the value that along with a profit margin are the
    primary concerns of any business which hopes to grow.

    Like

  8. Same goes for Twitter, I think. Listening to their execs bitching about Facebook made them look scared.

    Google is the new Yahoo.

    Facebook smells blood, and luckily they have the “competition” in the right frame of mind, ..scared. Complaining and confused, unable to come up with a service response that can effectively compete with what “Like” promises to offer in search.

    Twitter is bitter because this threatens @Anywhere, and Google is stunned that any other company can dare to even think the word “dominate”

    Like

  9. I was thinking on similar lines and I should say this is a great post indeed. You put in words what I was thinking, which is a tough job. So kudos to you.

    Also, What I don't get is Google has such an extensive reach on the web, they should really capitalize on it. Give two alternatives in Search, one traditional and the other interface similar to “Likes” of Facebook. This would give them a tremendous edge.

    But the guys at Google know what they are doing, I'm sure they have some plans to counter this.

    People tend to get attracted towards polished UI. I think Friend Connect should be given an UI overhaul. That would help it promote it better.

    It would be interesting indeed to see how Google deals with this. FB likes is a real and imminent threat for Big G.

    Like

  10. Well put. It's much more comforting as a developer and user to have
    choices and selective sharing into and put of other networks. It
    promotes trust, the value that along with a profit margin are the
    primary concerns of any business which hopes to grow.

    Like

  11. When I want to send a message to a friend, I usually log in into Google Mail. In fact, I'm almost nonstopped logged in into GMail. Problem: I don't have every email adress of every friend I need to communicate with. Sometimes I have their email, sometimes we are only friends on Facebook.
    Why isn't it possible to search all my Facebook friends and send them a message from within GMail? Google would know what I'm writing about and may present some ads they think I would like to click on?

    Besides that, I find Google Friend Connect highly complicated and irritating. Google's internationalization for their Friend Connect site sucks (half of it is in English and the other half in bad German) and doesn't help to clarify what I'm able to do and why I should do it.

    Like

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