Google is sitting on a gold mine opportunity right now and all I hear is complaining from their employees. Matt Cutts Deactivated his Facebook account and Tweeted about it to tell the story. Chris Messina called Facebook the dreaded “evil” word, and criticized the idea for being decentralized. Frankly, I’m getting tired of it and it’s making Google look desperate. Instead, here’s what I’d rather see Google doing:
Promote the Heck Out of Google Social Graph API
I don’t get it – Google employees are criticizing Facebook for not being decentralized when Facebook did just that. With the OpenGraph Protocol, any platform on the web can now implement a similar Pages network and integrate with the network of Pages Facebook is bringing into its own network. The opportunity is open to all, not just Facebook. Facebook even went to the extent of releasing that protocol under the Open Web Foundation agreement, solidifying that they were okay with others copying it.
Google has been promoting something similar – XFN links and FOAF attachments (along with “me” relationship identifiers to identify an individual as the same person across the web). In fact, Google built an API around it so others can have access to these protocols. Guess what? Facebook has an API as well for the OpenGraph protocol (called, quite similar “Graph API”). Has Google opened up their Social Graph API? No. (meaning, not any other network can copy the protocol of the API and use it as their platform as well) Neither has Facebook. There’s nothing wrong with that – they have to compete.
Google has a huge opportunity right now to be riding the coattails of Facebook on this announcement by promoting its SocialGraph API and how it’s a little better for the web than what Facebook is doing with its API around the OpenGraph. Rather than complain about what Facebook is doing, why not take the positive route and push that you have something better? Google has an incredible opportunity here to finally make the SocialGraph API really big, and they’re squashing it by spending their energy canceling their Facebook accounts and criticizing their efforts publicly. I think it’s totally the wrong move for Google to be making right now. Their PR department needs to get ahold of their employees and formulate a strategy for response.
Promote the Heck Out of Google Friend Connect
On top of the APIs and OpenGraph or SocialGraph related protocols (again, emphasis on the protocol being the open part of both networks – none of the other stuff, on both Google and Facebook’s side is), all that was launched by Facebook on Wednesday was a series of Widgets that lie on top of all this to make implementation of everything very easy. Google has the same thing, yet I have not heard one peep from Google employees about it since then.
Google’s product is called Friend Connect. Look at the Friend Connect page of widgets here and then look at the OpenGraph Social Plugins page here and tell me how they differ? The main difference is Google actually has more widgets than Facebook does. Kevin Marks, former Google employee who initiated OpenSocial and the Friend Connect program at Google, was quick to point out to me on Twitter that even Friend Connect has a like button (you can see it on his iPad Knees Up site in the upper-right here), and it requires a Google login to use! How is that any different than what Facebook is offering? You can see an example of Friend Connect in action over to the right where you see everyone’s profile pictures (note you didn’t even have to log in to see those, and there is no opt-out).
This is Google’s time to shine – show businesses that they can promote Twitter users and iGoogle users and Buzz users and Orkut users, and provide all the same functionality Facebook is providing, just as easy as they are (with the exception of that extremely simple Graph API Facebook just launched). Come up with new features that compete where you’re not at their level yet. The world doesn’t know about this yet. Google has more people using its network than Facebook does – Google needs to flaunt this, not complain.
Start Building on Facebook’s OpenGraph API and Stop Complaining
I’m sure I’ll get plenty of complaining responses by Google employees and former Google employees from this, but, I really hope they take this to heart and rather than argue with me on this, just go out and promote the products that they have. They potentially have something even bigger than what Facebook has, and it’s extremely important that the world knows about this.
Google really should consider taking advantage of this new protocol by Facebook – integrate it on its own sites, just as it expects Facebook to do with FOAF and XFN. Find ways to search and index this data in ways that Facebook just doesn’t have the advantage. They should find ways to integrate Facebook login (it’s just OAuth 2.0 now!) into their Friend Connect login process – Facebook’s being completely open in this.
It’s time Google start accepting these Facebook social graphs. Let us bring our Facebook friends into Google’s network – there’s not even a storage limit any more! Google needs to start playing nice or they’re going to get left in the dust. It’s time to stop complaining and take the ball back into your own court, Google. Otherwise I’m going to have no choice but to abandon Google products and go where my real friends are playing. That’s not a threat – it’s just the reality of where I’m being forced to go.