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Google Is Gunning For Facebook

Google Accounts

Google Accounts

Google is scared right now. Their advertising business is doing just fine. However, what they currently lack is an effective “crowd sourcing” strategy which is going to be critical in order to leverage future monetization opportunities. Crowdsourcing is loosely defined as a gathering of an online community to interact, engage, and share. In other words, Google needs a relevant social network beyond its Orkut social network brand which while popular in India and Brazil has not caught on in the United States or the rest of the world.

The threat Google faces right now is Facebook’s continued massive growth and this is really putting a thorn into Google’s side. Unlike most social networks Facebook culture is characterized by the use of real names  This leads to realistic profiles, audience, behavior, metrics that can usher in real advertising dollars.  MySpace has a “crowd” but in numbers only  (and mostly band spam), too much advertising and the advertising is usually lacking relevancy.  Twitter also has a massive crowd but I cannot imagine them being able to sustain themselves longterm with such a limited feature and so many spam accounts.  Twitter also lacks static features like profile image gallery, videos, and personality interests to become an effective “social desktop” for the internet.

The secret sauce in Facebook’s growing success is the use of authentic identities which provides a higher level of social proof than other social networks. One of the major commercial challenges in the internet is the problem of verifying legitimacy, filtering spam, protecting against viruses and mining unstructured information across the globe.  Much of this can be managed by focusing on connections between “real people”.  When you get a Facebook request from a person with their full names, it looks like this:

Facebook friend request
“John Doe, you received a friend request from Jane Smith”

MySpace, Twitter, Google friend request
“John Do, you received a friend request from xooosweetboi”

Obviously, a connection with a real name is more likely to be legitimate. Case in point, our own GadgetMETER website now has a Facebook page. We have a real audience there. Since we added the Facebook Friend Connect widget on our sidebar, you can now see real people who are fans of this site. This provides GadgetMETER with a level of social proof that assures audience,  which  is a quality qualifier by the number of real fans. We experimented with Google Friend Connect but our fan responses seemed to indicate a lack of familiarity with it, particularly since it’s not connected to or identified with a particular social network.

Google Accounts and YouTube
YouTube just might just become Google’s savior in the crowd sourcing space since it is one of the top destination sites.  If they can successfully convert YouTube audience to legitimate Google Accounts with real names they’ll have a shot.

Real Name Leads to Monetization
Google CEO Eric Schmidt has hinted about Google’s intention to move towards micro-payments. Facebook is rumored to be working on this as well.  Micro-payments can be effective in charging  smalls amount (say $0.02) to view or participate in a hot discussion or other piece of content.. The amount is so minor that it would provide a frictionless path towards an impulse purchase. Once its scaled, publishers and the network itself can profit immensely. However, getting people to pay for anything online requires real names attached to a merchant, social networks are notoriously horrible at this.  Google already has Google Checkout it needs a real audience there, and YouTube could be the ticket.

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