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February 28, 2011

Google and the Value of Social Networking (Part 3)

Paul Buchheit, the ex-Googler behind Gmail and a former Facebook employee, answered a question about the rivalry between Google and Facebook.
There is an interesting competitive element there because Facebook is growing very fast, and obviously, Google would like to compete in the social-networking space. They have finally realized its importance, and they are finding themselves, maybe for the first time, with the realization that there is someone who is way, way ahead of them.

There was a moment with Microsoft that they assumed that Google was like, "Well, yeah, search isn't that important. And if it does become important, we'll just hire some people and we'll take over." They kind of thought it was something they could win really easily, and they underestimated the difficulty of it. I kind of feel like Google may have reached that same moment with social networking, where they realized, A, it's important, and B, it's really hard to win.

Paul is not the first ex-Googler who thinks that Google didn't understand the importance of social networking. Another former Googler said that "there is some belief at Google that their DNA is not perfectly suited to build social products", while Aaron Iba, who worked on the Orkut team, noticed that "social networking [was viewed] as a frivolous form of entertainment rather than a real utility".

{ via Avinash }

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