Google Me, Google’s answer to social networking, is rumoured to be near completion. The rumour is so widespread and pervasive that most large tech sites report it as a foregone conclusion. FastCompany.com reports, “The leak comes from Adam D’Angelo, co-founder of Quora, a cloud-sourced community question-answer forum, and it’s interesting as he was formerly chief technology officer at Facebook.”
Apart from the leak, anecdotal evidence also comes from Google’s other forays into the social networking sphere.
With previous products not living up to expectations — one must simply recall the success of Gmail’s Buzz feature and the hype surrounding Google Wave — Google Me will be a totally new approach to social networking that may compete with giants such as Facebook.com in the years to come.
More concrete evidence of the platform comes from the recent purchases Google has made. Following in the footsteps of Facebook’s massive gaming success, Google has been negotiating with social gaming companies. Techcrunch.com writes, “[T]hey are now buying Jambool and their Social Gold payment product. [ . . . ] Social Gold gives app developers the ability to build payments directly into their games and other applications.”
Apart from their acquisition of Jambool, Google is reported to have approached social gaming giants Zynga, Playdom and Playfish, creators of phenomenally popular Facebook games such as Farmville. Just how popular? According to a TGDaily.com article, Farmville “has more than 60 million active monthly users.” It’s apparent that Google is gearing up to enter the social networking market, but with the rampant success of Facebook and its entrenchment into current tech culture, what would a Google social networking platform have to offer?
Chris Dannen of Bnet.com wrote an article with several well-grounded hypotheses.
Instead of launching a ‘Facebook killer,’ which is what most people immediately think of when hearing of a competing social networking platform, Dannen says it will more likely be “a service that culls a bunch of search-gleaned results to paint a picture of who you are online.” In other words, Google Me may give the user the privacy control that is sorely lacking on current social networking sites.
Dannen brings up an often overlooked aspect of Google’s design process: “Almost every product has been soft-launched as a Beta project so that the early adopters can muck around and figure out what, exactly, it’s good for.” Instead of a top-down approach as with Facebook, where users are allowed to interact only in certain ways, it’s possible that Google Me will allow users much more control, possibly even letting them define the product and its application, not the other way around.
Taking a look at Google’s existing social networking product, Google Friend Connect, can give us a clue where social networking may be headed. Friend Connect is used by amateur web developers and allows for the creation of small community-based sites for communicating, sharing links and resources. Instead of a user-based approach where your personal landing page defines your experience, the future may be more fluid, where your community affiliations will shape your online experiences.