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July 15, 2010

Google and the Value of Social Networking

Many people wonder why Google didn't manage to build successful social services. Orkut's success is limited to Brazil and India, iGoogle's social gadgets aren't popular, Friend Connect isn't widely used, Google Buzz has a lot of potential, but not much success.

Aaron Iba, a former Google employee, thinks that Google failed to realize the value of social networking:
I worked at Google in 2005 and briefly on the Orkut team. I encountered an environment that viewed social networking as a frivolous form of entertainment rather than a real utility, and I'm pretty sure this viewpoint was shared all the way up the chain of command to the founders.

At that time, hardly anyone at Google actually used Facebook, so they just didn't understand what people were getting out of social networking products. Incredibly, many people on the Orkut team did not use their own product (let alone Facebook) outside of work. By contrast, everyone I know who worked at Facebook was a passionate user of that product.

Ultimately, I believe Google didn't succeed at social networking because of this widespread misunderstanding of the value in social networking products.

Google's attempts to build social services were unsuccessful because they didn't add a lot of value. Paul Adams, user experience researcher at Google, thinks that "the social web is not a fad, and it's not going away. It's not an add-on to the web as we know it today. It's a fundamental change, a re-architecture, and in hindsight its evolution is obvious. The emergence of the social web is simply our online world catching up with our offline world."


  1. Keep working on it Google, you will come up with something.

    I love Wave but it just seems like one more thing, why not merge it with Gmail?

  2. 90% of Facebook/Twitter is pointless drivel. The other 10% is very useful, particularly to small entrepreneurs such as self-published writers, one-person businesses, etc. They get exposure and a venue with decent tools.

  3. Definitely!

    And that's also because they launch features and withdraw or abandon them, like Offline Docs, GTalk client and others (yes, there are, I just don't have them in my clipboard right now).

  4. Most social media don't have a fundamental glue (value) that holds their users to their offerings, when the next shiny innovation comes along those social media will be under water.

  5. We got enough great services from Google...What ever they do they will give the doubt about it..I'm sure Google would comeup with something that adds value to us in Future!!

  6. google groups is full of spam and they are not interested in fixing it (mostly because they dont think they can make money from it). when groups was launched they were enthusiastic. That is why one has to be careful not be too dependent on their services as sometimes they can lose interest in some.

  7. My experiences with interviewing at Google in previous years is that they are all about the 'data', and they generally substitute 'data' for human understanding.

    Not surprising given the elitist culture of a company that still wants to see your college transcripts despite 20 years of experience in the industry.

    They need to get a more 'human' perspective, but I doubt that's going to happen unless the original founding team leaves.

  8. Google could still win this. Social networking isn't a fad, but the individual tools still are. Except for the SN fanatics, people aren't going to want to join and learn a new network each time the fad changes. If Google can come up with a Gmail or a Google reader or search-like app that makes it easy for people to use all of the sns, it could capture the biggest and most consistent part of the field.

  9. I still think Google will create a social network that will be accepted by the masses. Now will they ever duplicate the success of Facebook? Unlikely, but that doesn't mean they can't come up with a legitimate alternative.

  10. I Agree that Social Networking is not a fad and will continue to expand and mature.

    I think right now it is viewed as a fad because of the hopping from one site to another.

    Facebook is a success right now but I remember being on Facebook when everyone was on Myspace and now who really has a Myspace anymore?

    As far as Google entering the Social Networking media and duplicating Facebook success Yes it's possible.

  11. Google is Blind as it is siting on the largest social network in the world. That is Youtube.Were Google is missing the market is in the Youtube page layout.
    the side bar or about me panel should be integrated with the social side of Orkut. This would serve as a portal to My picks and a place to expand friend ships through Youtube. In the comment section of the Youtube page Google should simply replace with Google Buzz. This would give rise to conversations across Medea platforms.
    Its a no brainier that Google has missed this opportunity to maximize the social power of Youtube.
    With Google voice and Android the potential of turning Youtube into a video phone surpassing anything Skype could ever hope for.
    With android remotely loading picks to my albums at-al the sky is the limit

  12. I thought Google would have been the first ones to come up with a social network service..whats taking so long?

  13. Social web (or web 2.0) is an important part of an interconnected world. People have gained more access to the information by their common interests. Groups, associations, meetings, which were mostly physical before, took place in a virtual space.
    It is the internet of people.
    Now, there is another trend, with M2M, AMR and lots of new devices with IP servers embeded, to create the internet of things (web 3.0, I would risk to say). Ex: The soda machine will ask for refills by sending text messaging to its owner; or you will open your house's door to your maid using your cell phone as an intercom (with video).
    This phase is about control. When we will remotely control our houses, our equipments and stuff with the help of the internet.
    Social networking platforms will probably just merge with the web browser into a single interface (on the net, as it already is) for prompt communication and "control".
    So... I would compare Orkut to an old galena radio and give it a place in a virtual museum. =]

  14. the employee of Google is right, as orkut was really a good instrument at the start, taking my own example, i was a orkut user first then when i started using application in Facebook, i hardly use to go on orkut as there were many application which use to keep me busy rather den just scrapping frndz with a hi! orkut if again tries 2come into a success, i think it would be rather next to impossible...

  15. as we all know that all the other services of google are leading on the net i think it will not take for than a few months than google will also take the lead on becoming the provider of one of the best social networking site.

  16. google is not made 4 social networking, only for googling


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