Both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have recently reported on the imminent demise of Google+. In these social ‘prebituaries,’ the reporters tackle the issue of user numbers admirably, but in their zeal, they also get a bit carried away and say things like, Google+ is a “desolate wasteland” or use the example of one photographer’s departure as indicative of the entire social site’s failures when - I know for a fact -Google+ is brimming with beautiful images from professional photographers.
The Wall Street Journal really got the bit between its teeth and let the horse lead the rider when it printed the following:
Facebook and Twitter helped change the way people discover new things on the Web, rivaling Google as the chief gateway to the Internet.
Facebook is now rivaling Google as the chief gateway to the Internet?
You have to be frickin’ kidding me right?
Facebook is a gateway to Facebook. If you want to get to the rest of the web, you use what’s called a search engine.
And right now you can do that one of three ways: you can choose Bing. You can use Yahoo (otherwise known as Bing), or in the case of 66.2% us, we Google it.
And I think 66.2% is enough of a majority to safely say that Google still owns search.
Despite its excitement over Google+ biting the dust, The New York Times does seem to suggest Google is approaching “social” in quite a different way than Facebook, explaining how Vic Gundotra (Google’s vice president for engineering) sees “Google Plus as a social blanket that envelopes the entire Google experience.”
What’s the Google “experience” he’s referring to - well it could be YouTube, or Chrome or Android apps, but it is most certainly one thing. Search.
And let’s clarify that until something really big changes, a search engine defines how we experience the web. You cannot navigate your own ship. I think people forget sometimes that somewhere, out there someone has created a formula and that’s what determines what pops up on your browser. You don’t control it. You can influence it, sure. But you’re not really in charge. And guess what, neither is Facebook.
Facebook is found in a search. It does not power search. In fact, anyone who’s tried to search within Facebook and who doesn’t end up either weeping or swearing is a more patient human than I.
That makes search a pretty powerful ally to Google in these social wars and don’t doubt that Google plans to leverage it.
I think it’s safe to say that Google has more in mind than playing catch-up with Facebook as the WSJ suggests.
I would like the media to sit down with Facebook (preferably Zuckerberg himself) and ask the following question: How can a social site such as Facebook that’s so huge and profitable get away with offering its users such abominable search functionality?