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Google, Social, and Facebook: One Ring Does Not Rule Them All

By - February 17, 2011

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When I read Google announcements like this one, An update to Google Social Search, I find myself wondering why Google doesn’t just come out and say something like this: “We know social search is important, and we’re working on it. However, we don’t think the solution lies in working only with Facebook, because, to be honest, we think social media is bigger than one company, one platform, or one “social graph.” We’ve got a bigger vision for what social means in the world, and here it is.”

Wouldn’t that be great?

Because honestly, I think the company does have a bigger vision, and I think it’s rooted in the idea of instrumentation and multiples of signals (as in, scores if not thousands of signals understood to be social in nature). In other words, there is not one “ring to rule them all” – there is no one monoculture of what “social” means. For now, it appears that way. Just like it appears that there’s one tablet OS. But the world won’t shake out that way – we’re far too complicated as humans to relegate our identity to a single platform. It will be distributed, nuanced, federated. And it should be instrumented and controlled by the individual. At least, I sure hope it will be.  

Google might as well declare this up front and call it a strategy. In that context, it might even make sense to do further Facebook integration in the near term, as one of many signals, of course. Google already uses some limited Facebook data (scroll down), but clearly has decided to not lean in here (or can’t come to terms with Facebook around usage policies). Clearly the two companies are wary of working together. But it’s my hope that over time, whether or not they do should be a moot issue.

Why? Because I view my Facebook data as, well, mine. Now, that may not really be the case, but if it’s mine, I should be able to tell Google to use it in search, or not. That’s an instrumentation signal I should be able to choose. Just like I can chose to use my Facebook identity to log into this blog, or any number of other sites and services. It should be my choice, not Facebook’s, and not Google’s either.

Switch the control point to the customer, and this issue sort of goes away. I have a longer post in me about “social clothing” – came up on a phone call with Doc Searls yesterday – and hopefully when I get to that, this might make a bit more sense….

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7 thoughts on “Google, Social, and Facebook: One Ring Does Not Rule Them All

  1. step21 says:

    Isn’t the problem more that facebook doesn’t like google using its data? More or less like what you said about usage policies only that from what I recall weren’t there more fundamental differences?

  2. Paisley says:

    John,
    did ya notice FaceBook connect login on youtube?

    think about it.. youtube will get all the data it wants from facebook… or from it’s users… =)

  3. Aldo Castaneda says:

    John,

    I like where you’re going with your post above John. But I think the notion that this is just about “social” might be limiting. Shouldn’t we include “all of our signals”, reflecting all of the aspects of our lives, as living breathing beings. Signals about our professional lives, health, hobbies, habits, beliefs…the list goes on. Sure much of that data needs to be kept confidential but it will have vast value of we can individually aggregate it and expose it as we as individuals see fit.

    -Aldo

  4. Seo says:

    I had to read this article a couple of times to try and grasp what is going on here. We all know that social signals are coming. We know where they are going to start (Facebook, twitter, maybe flickr, foursquare, gowalla), but who knows to what degree they are going to stop. Unfortunately, creating a profile anywhere on the internet, no longer allows anything about you to be private. Whatever you put online, is out there. Who knew that the wild west of the internet would evolve into an experiment in global social etiquette.

    Regardless, as far as what Google is up to, I agree, it is something bigger. Perhaps they have now entered the “if we can’t beat em, join em’ part of the social networks. As far as facebook’s relationship with Microsoft / Bing, who know what was written into the agreement, and what 1.9% of an investment into a company can really buy. Maybe Microsoft was ahead of the game when they did this agreement and purposely put in exclusivity rights when it came to data sharing. Regardless, there appears to be a bunch of interesting things that will play out in both the Search world, and SEO world for the next few years.

  5. SEO Toronto says:

    These are really good points… However Google has lots of secrets they aren’t sharing…

  6. SusanPAus says:

    Your FB data is currently being skimmed by data-mining companies. Not sure if you’re aware of this by your wording. Most companies can also skim Twitter DMs.
    I’ve undertaken data-mining analytics and the work I did drew on posts from Twitter, FB, blogs and news-services.

  7. Matt says:

    Well, if you really want more privacy, just get a personal or private network such as with Odysen.

    It’s cheap, no advertising, and easy to share with whomever you want, both across your network or with specific users in your network.

    While it doesn’t have all the games or flashing shiny objects that social networks have, it is helpful for actual communications, imho of course…