Google and social

I ain’t gonna lie; I am no social media creature... not that it matters much. Despite recent reports about Facebook losing momentum in Europe and North America, its staggering worldwide user count still indicates I’m part of a rare and possibly dying breed.

AS ONLINE marketers, however, we have a duty to keep abreast of new developments in the social media and search arenas, simply because that’s where online traffic flows best these days. And boy is there daily news on these fronts: Specific Media buying a discounted MySpace from News Corp, a Linkedln IPO valuating the company at more than $9 billion. On Google’s doorstep, the forthcoming Yahoo!/Bing alliance, combined with the growing promiscuity between Microsoft and Facebook (Bing, Skype) sees the ‘Big G’s’ algorithm-based business haemorrhage traffic to more people centric destinations.

Then there’s Google launching Google+. Now that's right up our street: the boundaries between search and social blurring even further. Let’s take a closer look.

Google and social

It would be short-sighted to reduce Google’s latest effort to crack the social nut as a belated reaction to social media's success in recent years. Google’s interest in the field extends as far back as January 2004 with the launch of Orkut, one of the world’s first social platforms, released one month ahead of Facebook hitting Harvard. Named after its creator, Google employee Orkut Biiyukokte (good thing they used his first name), the venture starts well, but gradually loses ground to MySpace and the emerging Facebook. It’s now operated from Brazil, its most successful market, which represents almost 50 percent of its users (followed dosely by India at 40 percent).

Skip forward five years. It’s now May 2009 and, in a renewed foray into the social media space, Google Wave is launched. Spun as a real-time communication platform - part email, part Twitter, part instant messaging - it never really takes off, because, as per Google’s own account, it “has not seen the user adoption we would have liked”. Try again.

Less than a year later, in February 2010, Google Buzz is unveiled as a range of social features stapled to Google’s web-based email system, Gmail. Buzz quickly attracts the wrong kind of attention - including a class action lawsuit - thanks to the inadequate thinking behind its initial privacy framework. A default setting of sharing email contacts and the inability for users without a Google profile to make their information private prompts press outfits such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (СВС) to describe Buzz’s arrival as having “ignited a hailstorm of criticism”. СВС indicates, “One user blogged about how Buzz automatically added her abusive ex-boyfriend as a follower and exposed her communications with a current partner to him. Other bloggers commented that repressive governments in countries such as China or Iran could use Buzz to expose dissidents”. Not good. Next.
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