No matter what tech bloggers are saying each time Google releases another feature – Google does not compete with Facebook. It’s pretty simple if you look at “meta” levels of each. Who’s the center of attention for each service. What is the first thing that comes up by default in each service. What tools and services do they provide.
Google – personalized search, your profile, your e-mail, your contacts, your calendar, your pictures. Sprinkled with a magic dust of “share” buttons.
Facebook – friends’ activity, shared photos, events, friend-a-palooza, groups (with actual people!), pages (which are another way to name simple forums).
Google is about “you” while Facebook is about “them”.
Google cannot compete with Facebook for obvious reasons that it lacks tools and methods to connect “you” with “them”. Because in Google’s ecosystem there is no “them”, there are millions and millions of “you”. They send each other e-mails, schedule appointments and occasionally share a picture or two, but it doesn’t create “them” out of millions of “you”s.
It doesn’t mean Google didn’t try. Trying they are – just look at the Buzz and their latest integration of Profiles. Buzz is the most cumbersome friend activity feed I’ve ever seen, even 10-year old LiveJournal still does it better. Just to give you one good reason – no matter how many people I follow on Buzz, you know who stays on top all the time? Matt Cutts, that’s who! Because of the sheer number of comments he gets he stays on top (his post is bumped up any time someone leaves a comment) and all my friends who are a lot more important to me (no offense, Matt) are lagging distant second. Would I use Buzz? No, not with this flavor of things.
Take another example – Blogger. Google bought the service back in 2003 and did their regular techno-dance around it until 2006. After that all the changes were primarily cosmetic – adding new templates, updated editor and so on. The most social place of all gets editor updates and Google Docs integration… unbelievable! Ever tried to leave a comment on this thing? LiveJournal is still using their WYSIWYG editor from the mainframe era and they are more social than Blogger!
Want more? Take a look at Picasa. Again, sharing photos is one hell of a social madness – look no further than Flickr. Yahoo is checking itself into elderly care, yet Flickr is kicking it as hard as they ever did. Now, when you look at Picasa – it’s not even a decent photo storage place, let alone a social interaction tool.
Again, Google is about “you” while Facebook is about “them”, there is no competition going on – unless you call a bunch of “share” buttons a competition to Facebook. The two ecosystems are going two separate roadways, it’s just when some people see trucks moving on another road they tend to think there’s a junction ahead. Nope, keep looking, there is no junction yet – not any time soon.