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)


Monday, August 27, 2007 5:17:18 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I agree, the Web is my social network. We need to do so much work on Tagging, Identity and Attention and all this other stuff is just a distraction or even a cop-out.

Attention is finding a blog with authority on a particular subject at a precise moment in time. If there is an earthquake I want to find and read a geologists blog, not some kid with ten thousand friends writing my heart goes out...
Monday, August 27, 2007 6:13:16 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
The idea that walled garden social networks (aka areas of "Dark" Web) will provide the second of a one two punch (the first being Social Graph Searching) by excluding Google's access is a fascinating one. I believe there is also the threat of what I call "Swarm Competition":


Monday, August 27, 2007 7:10:42 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I don't think Facebook makes Google less useful -- it's still exactly as useful as it was before you joined. There's lots of stuff that Google can't find besides Facebook pages: think of all the information on your own internal intranet at Microsoft, for example, and multiply that by a few hundred thousand other company networks. Facebook is essentially the social equivalent of a company intranet, with all the benefits and all the drawbacks of any closed network.
Monday, August 27, 2007 7:23:54 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I agree that your social network can improve the quality of your search results.

> 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 ..

The problem with this line of reasoning is that the world is far, FAR more important than your individual social network. Making things public is participating in the world's biggest social network, which has the most potential reward. It's not even close.

So until Scoble goes dark on his public website, and switches to Facebook exclusively, I won't be holding my breath on this one. :)

Monday, August 27, 2007 8:38:42 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Mmm,great post,i agree but i think that in the future Google will index also UGC and social network content.

p.s. The URL here (Microsoft folks can find it here) doesn't work.. ;)
Tuesday, August 28, 2007 2:28:40 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Master of Puppets is probably their best album. I recommend that you listen to A Tribe Called Quest tomorrow.
Hiro Matsuda
Tuesday, August 28, 2007 5:17:02 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Weren't we all raving about how MySpace would take over the world not too long ago? And before that GeoCities? Facebook will come and go like others before it (or when Microsoft buys it). Another twenty something will come up with a brilliant idea, perhaps something to do with mobile (after all, there are more mobile phones than PCs in the world) and it will catch on via viral SMS. As an application Facebook is nothing short of boring. You have a profile with data, you link to other people that you lost touch with (and likely lost touch for a reason), and add all kinds of applications that spam everyone on your list. I would say the world of instant messaging should be more worried. They have had the walled garden for years. Facebook adds that ability to filter through the messages, allows you to choose when to respond without offending someone who is expecting your to respond immediately, all without giving away your real email address.

(As for music choices, I would recommend a small Canadian outfit called Protest the Hero.)
Tuesday, August 28, 2007 8:12:59 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Interesting... Google also owns a Social Network (ORKUT) that is indeed a walled garden. And that is even closer. They don't even provide APIs, feeds, anything to pull or access your data out of it...
Tuesday, August 28, 2007 9:36:18 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Shouldn't you argue the other way around? Won't Facebook users recognize at some point that they only have access to mediocre search facilities, i.e. no one finds their stuff, and turn away to a Google-reachable medium? Don't they want to be found by Google?
Tuesday, August 28, 2007 10:26:05 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Great comments! It is true that Google has a lot of loosely coupled services to offer. Looking at the Google top navigation that was introduced in May 2007 there are two main sets of Services: Different type of Search (Web, Books, Blog ...) and Applications (Mail, Docs, Reader, ...) PLUS the Social Network Orkut. Google has shown some willingness to integrate it services with its push for Universal Search. They can decide at any point in time to do the same for Applications and Social Networking. Think about an enhanced Google Docs that let users create iGoogle type of pages in Google Docs. Now they could share those inside Google Docs like today you share Docs and Spreadsheets. Sharing an iGoogle page would be the equivalent of inviting that person to join this new “social network” (more details here: ). And that is only one way how Google could react.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007 8:05:36 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Yup, pretty much. My own thoughts on this ( ) is that the biggest aggregator wins. Facebook's strategy at this point is almost completely backwards but if they were to open up and become a real part of the web instead of just another walled garden they could give the Google guys a run for the money. With the right strategic focus they could end up replacing Google as the guy that displays the search box to the user and the and the guy that presents contextual advertising to the user.
Thursday, August 30, 2007 11:57:21 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Register your own WordPress blog here!
Thursday, August 30, 2007 9:55:08 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Google already searches "walled gardens". Ever done a Google search that's lead to an Elsiver or IEEE or Nature or New York Times article that said "please give us money to get content".

Facebook will let Google search it and give you access for the right price.
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