Robert Scoble has a blog post up entitled Why Mahalo, TechMeme, and Facebook are going to kick Google’s butt in four years where he argues that search based on social graphs (e.g. your Facebook relationships) or generated by humans (e.g. Mahalo) will eventually trump Google's algorithms. I'm not sure I'd predict the demise of Google but I do agree that the social graph can be used to improve search and other aspects of the Internet experience, in fact I agree so much that was the topic of my second ThinkWeek paper which I submitted earlier this year (Microsoft folks can find it here).
However I don’t think Google’s main threat from sites like Facebook is that they may one day build social graph powered search that beats Google’s algorithms. Instead it is that these sites are in direct conflict with Google’s mission to
organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.
because they create lots of valuable content that Google can not access. Google has branched out of Web search into desktop search, enterprise search, Web-based email and enterprise application hosting all to fulfill this mission.
The problem that Google faces with Facebook is pointed out quite well in Jason Kottke’s post Facebook vs. AOL, redux where he writes
Think of it this way. Facebook is an intranet for you and your friends that just happens to be accessible without a VPN. If you're not a Facebook user, you can't do anything with the site...nearly everything published by their users is private. Google doesn't index any user-created information on Facebook.2
and in Jeff Atwood's post Avoiding Walled Gardens on the Internet which contains the following excerpt
I occasionally get requests to join private social networking sites, like LinkedIn or Facebook. I always politely decline…public services on the web, such as blogs, twitter, flickr, and so forth, are what we should invest our time in. And because it's public, we can leverage the immense power of internet search to tie it all-- and each other-- together.
What Jason and Jeff are inadvertantly pointing out is that once you join Facebook, you immediately start getting less value out of Google’s search engine. This is a problem that Google cannot let continue indefinitely if they plan to stay relevant as the Web’s #1 search engine.
What is also interesting is that thanks to efforts of Google employees like Mark Lucovsky, I can use Google search from within Facebook but without divine intervention I can’t get Facebook content from Google’s search engine. If I was an exec at Google, I’d worry a lot more about the growing trend of users creating Web content where it cannot be accessed by Google than all the “me too” efforts coming out of competitors like Microsoft and Yahoo!.
The way you get disrupted is by focusing on competitors who are just like you instead of actually watching the marketplace. I wonder how Google will react when they eventually realize how deep this problem runs?
Now playing: Metallica - Welcome Home (Sanitarium)