By most measures, Google is the internet giant and perhaps even the company that represents technology the most. And it seems like in every arena, Google is thriving and gaining market share not only through its great marketing, but also, quite simply because its products are generally of superior quality. The most obvious example is search, where Google has been the leader for years with the brightest and richest doing their best to catch up without any success to show for. Unless of course you consider slowing down your market share losses… And even in newer areas such as news and more importantly mobile, Google is gaining grounds on established rivals and looks about as unbeatable as Microsoft seemed a decade or so ago.
There is one surprising area where Google is not putting up much effort or able to have much of a presence; the social internet. It is surprising because it is the most discussed topic in many arenas. Google’s efforts in mobile are very understandable and logical. Its lack of effort in social media is not. Facebook and Twitter have gained significant size and have huge momentum making it difficult, even for Google to play catch up if it enters the game. Of course, Google does have such a website in Orkut. But how many of you have actually heard of it? Sure, if you are located in Brazil or India, then you do know about it and perhaps have a profile. But with no offence, that is not exactly where the battled will be played out.
There have been rumors about Google being in discussions with Twitter for an acquisition, Google has politely said it was not shopping for now. Of course, in many ways, such a deal would not be surprising. Think about how Google purchased Youtube to instantly gain the lead in online video. But it is playing a dangerous games, as other rivals (including Facebook) could snap it before. And before you ask, Facebook is partially owned by Microsoft so its doubtful Google could do much if that happened. So it is surprising to see Google put up so little effort in social media despite it being snagged as the next big thing by many.
Does it really matter?
Google execs are smart, so you would think that if they are not spending energy on social media, it is because they do not consider it a key for their future. They have even went out of their way to clear that in their opinion, Twitter has no viable way to enter the search market. Who are we to doubt Google but I personally do not agree with this. Having millions of users and helping them connect with their family, friends, lost friends, loved ones, favourite artists, favourite brands. There is surely value in that. And in many ways, when Google says its goal is to organize the world’s information, you would think that Facebook, Twitter and others would have an incredible amount of data that could be used in many commercial and non-commercial ways. Already, Twitter has started to make headlines because it is now increasingly used by politicians in the US to communicate with citizens. Isn’t that critical?
I think Google is simply too big to ignore and even take a risk on this. Considering the costs involved, Google should either get serious about buying Twitter or put some serious energy in Orkut before it’s too late. We do not know how Facebook, Myspace and Twitter will evolve but there is no doubt that they have increasing power and knowledge about an increasing proportion of the world’s population, and that should not be ignored.