Google’s first move did not directly target people but shook the whole web eco-system: for the first time since its creation, Google undertook a deep change regarding its core value: the search engine algorithm called « Panda ». And the result was spectacular:
Why? Google, under the pressure of Facebook, had to introduce a more qualitative and personal approach to its search engine.
Facebook and other curation or aggregation platforms have increased a lot the level of information circulating through internet and at the same time have generated duplicate content (links from Twitter, Facebook posts, blogs articles aggregation, curation platforms…) which has been complicating the task of the search engine … and at the same time it has given the solution : users are creating a natural “ranking” when they decide to « like » or «share » the content.
To keep the leadership on search for information, Google was forced to take this into account and is now correcting the ranking of content in results depending on how much social activity it generates through comments, likes or shares and tries to give priority to the original content…with strong negative impact on platforms that are only replicating or aggregating content from other places.
By doing this, Google admits that the social existence of a given content matters as much as the content itself … which goes much beyond its initial choice to incorporate Twitter feeds, and has now given people a central role in its service.
« Google + »: Facebook’s me too? Or a new attempt for a Universal Profiles Directory?
Google + was the second major step towards the social dimension of the web. It was launched only a few months after Panda … and yet its spectacular growth contrasts with the small number of active users a few weeks after the launch.
Thanks to the dominating position of Google and the amount of data that it has already collected about any of us (through Gmail contacts, or web browsing or our use of Android Smartphones)
However, many users have stated that the only change for them is that they share the same information on two media instead of one. With maybe a better distinction between professional and personal interactions thanks to the « circle ». But it’s far from the « revolution » that Google Labs has introduced in usage before (think of Gmail, Google maps, Google earth, etc…). As if it was launched in a hurry before it was too late?
Defending himself from simply copying Facebook, Google CEO Eric Schmidt explained: « Google+ is not really a social network; it is before all a digital identity service». This is the reason why Google doesn’t allow fake identities – closing the door to companies so far.
Google already indexes almost any possible resource on internet (websites, books, maps, images)… and it’s getting even further with Android domination on mobile. But Google wants more. Google wants the database…of people!
Timeline from Facebook: back to the future or Big Brother?
The reaction of Facebook to its rival did not come long after Google explored this social dimension.
Facebook’s Timeline and OpenGraph updates are certainly the important move since the creation of the social network. The constant updates over the last few weeks – somehow disturbing users, who are getting a bit lost – are stressing the urgency of the situation.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s clearly stated at its F8 Keynote: « Now that we have interconnected people, we want to give them a new way to express themselves and share their whole life ». Timeline’s and Open Graph’s ambition is clear: Facebook aims at becoming THE platform where all digital life happens. Facebook will even be able to automatically prioritize events for you when you happen to browse through the past of your life. Somewhere in between « Back to the future » and « 1984 Big Brother »…
Shifting from tracking what people like or share to what they do in all situations of their digital life will give Facebook a deeper knowledge of people… but what for?
Why do Google and Facebook want to become the Profile directory of the world and at what price?
With Facebook Connect or Google’s Gmail people can already fill out forms automatically on a number of websites. But if the Google or Facebook account was deeply linked to the real identity of the user, it would open new lucrative options like sending or receiving phone and visio calls, making one-clic payments, managing bank accounts... all of this directly from the mobile of their users!
However, there is more to win.
Our digital life is getting richer and more and more influenced by other people: through our professional or private networks, through the shared content, through the comments and the ratings on goods or services we purchase.
In more and more occasions we even decide whether or not to meet with other people in “real life” only by relying on their digital profile: customers, suppliers, people to hire, etc.. The digital « e-reputation » of people is having critical and increasing importance on everybody’s life.
But in reality there is very little authenticated information about us. Try to search for your name on Google (as 90% of internauts and 75% of recruiters do) and you will figure out how bad search engines and social networks are to prioritize and organize the relevant information on yourself and authenticate its source.
The strategic fight of Google and Facebook’s for people’s profiles is thus symptomatic at the same time of a big failure and a tremendous ambition: they are not yet and want to become the source of « true authenticated personal data » also called « digital identity ».
Digital Identity is the heart of tomorrow’s internet
By following early players in this field like about.me (acquired by AOL late 2010), flavors.me or Tumblr (estimated to $800M with « only » 14 millions of micro-bloggers at the end of the summer), the big players on internet and mobile are in fact reshaping the whole web industry and confirming that the « new » web will exist through people!
- In its early days, the web allowed professional editors to massively publish their content to millions of people (through websites or blogs)
- Then the social networks (and more recently, curation platforms) have given the power to users to comment, filter and select among the mass of information, by sharing and relaying the things they like most to people they know.
- Now, the new « .me » personal curation platforms are giving everybody the ability to be their own content producer and publisher, under their own identity, and thus take the control of their digital lives and reputation by selecting and authenticating the right information to show.
Under the pressure of social networks and the further development of mobile, could it be that a brand new Internet generation - more personal, focused and driven by people - is taking over?
Will this new generation give in to the sirens of Facebook or Google, or prefer another way with new players taking the lead?
Forget the « .com », welcome to the « .me » generation!
Xavier Paulik, CEO de Tiki’Labs