The social media war: Giant vs. Giant

by Adelaide Z  |  August 20, 2010

Google, the heavy weight champ of internet search, is rumored to be stepping into the ring with Facebook to challenge their reign as social media champions. A recent NY Times article titled "Google Develops a Facebook Rival" discusses Google's top-secret project called Google Me and their latest effort to penetrate the multi-million dollar social media industry.

To me the name Google is synonymous with success. They continuously achieve their corporate goals while pushing the boundaries of innovation. Their corporate philosophies are the envy of many in the technology sector and their products have become staples of our everyday life. However, for some strange reason, Google’s been unsuccessful at entering the social media industry and it's not due to their lack of trying.

You may remember a few of Google's previous attempts to dethrone Facebook (or maybe you don't). Most recently was Google Buzz, the supposed Facebook killer that came out with a lot of bark but no bite. Before this was Orkurt, a social media site that never gained popularity in North America or Europe. Also, Google had their Friend Connect and Google Wave that were both heavily anticipated attempts to beat Facebook but never lived up to their initial hype.

This leads me to two questions. Why does Google continue to spend billions in this social media battle?  Secondly, what will be different with Google Me that could persuade people to leave Facebook? To answer the first question let’s take a look at some numbers. Facebook recently announced it passed 500 million members (a startling 1 in 10 people on earth) and in 2009 they reportedly earned a whopping $800 million (and they’ve grown exponentially since). Therefore,  Google’s current list of users and their expertise in advertizing transfers well to social media and will surely be another gold mine for the company.  Also, Facebook has pushed their IPO back until 2012 giving Google Me some much needed time to gain market share before they go public. The second question is more difficult to answer as Google rarely gives insight into their bag of tricks.

Their only hint about Google Me is they’ve recently purchased 4 online gaming companies that will probably be added to the platform. Online gaming is very popular on social media sites as these simple (and fun) games allow people to play with friends in their networks. Social gaming was a $700 million market in 2009 and analysts believe the market will triple by 2012.  Sure, this sounds pretty cool but is that all Google Me has to offer?

I understand why Google continues to battle Facebook for social media supremacy but nothing I’ve heard about Google Me seems overly innovative or ground-breaking.  This giant versus giant battle is very inspiring but I question if online gaming will be the secret formula that Google Me needs to finally triumph over Facebook. Their previous attempts were miserable, unGoogle-like, and probably quite humbling for the company. However, they continue to get up and fight another round. Will this be another humiliating defeat for Google? Only time will tell....