“One search engine to rule them all, one search engine to bind them”.
It doesn’t quite have the elegance of the original line from The Lord of The Rings, but it neatly encompasses the battleground that is based upon precious and profitable percentages of your time and your online usage habits, Dear Reader.
Google is still the dominant player in the Google>Twitter>Facebook tryst and try as they might to fight it, and claim independence, Google is the binding party to Twitter and Facebook’s success to date and for, possibly, some time to come.
Taking a look at compete.com you’ll see that not only is Google and gmail’s traffic so much higher than Twitter and Facebook, Google is also one of, if not, the major traffic referrer’s for both the social networks as shown in the graph below.
Google's dominance of Facebook and Twitter (click to see full size)
There’s no doubt that Facebook and Twitter have their own momentum but there are some key things worth noting about the information and the companies behind them.
First is that Google isn’t primarily a social media company. It’s primary purpose is as a search engine. It’s not relying on people wanting to connect, it relies on curiosity, learning and intrigue. Google search also compliments Twitter and Facebook users’ experience – if you want to know what’s so great about that band/article/topic you’re friends and contacts are tweeting and updating about, no problem, go Google it.
Second is that Twitter is the odd one out here. It’s neither a deep search engine with millions of informative articles and research nor is it about, necessarily, connecting to your friends. It’s primary purpose as the company founder Biz Stone said is to become the “pulse of the planet“. Many users start following celebrities, academics, companies and other people that they don’t know but like and respect. That’s great, but companies and people you’ve never met aren’t friends necessarily, thereby making Twitter potentially more dispensable if users start running short on time.
Third is that Facebook has some thinking to do. It’s not often you can say this about the world’s largest social network, especially when according to research they’re driving 44% of the social sharing on the web, but with Google Buzz’s launch it’s time for Facebook to clarify it’s intentions. With Buzz pumping out 9 million buzz’s in just a week or two of being launched and twitter only slowing down a little, it’s time for them to clearly communicate where Facebook is headed, to the users. At the moment Facebook is a very easy and familiar communication tool to keep in touch with friends across neighbourhoods and nations, as well as a great way for companies to do very well with addicting games like Farmville. But is it much more than that to the majority of users?
While most users may give up their grandma quicker than they would their Facebook account the question is now, ‘where is Facebook headed?’ And with a user license agreement that states Facebook is entitled to sell, use and distrbute anything you put on there at their discretion how much information will people be comfortable putting on there anyway?
Fourth, Google Buzz. A brilliant move by Google, the rumblings of those upset with the development will forget about it and move on or not use the service, but everyone new that signs up to gmail will have it upon starting and it won’t be a foreign intrusion to their usual email habits. Problem solved.
While much of the talk since it’s launch has been ‘Will Google Buzz threaten Twitter?’ perhaps the more pertinent question is ‘How will Google Buzz threaten Facebook?’
Google Buzz just isn’t so much taking aim Twitter as it is for Facebook. In a nut shell Google Buzz connects you with people you know, via a common and comfortable platform and lets you update, share and discuss anything from simple conversations to videos, images, retaurant reviews, articles and more. Sound familiar?
Further to this, people already trust Google and Gmail so it’s not such a leap-of-faith moment to get people using Google Buzz, you’re already connected to these people so there’s no ‘upload your address book and find people you know’ when you sign up like other social networks and, as a major bonus, it’s the same login as your email. So you don’t have to go to yet another site and remember yet another login.
So where to next? Well, with Google’s Android being an arguably better mobile platform than Apple’s locked down proprietary system, already being the biggest search engine and still growing, as well as having one of the largest free public email services on the planet and connecting it with a new social network with people you know it’s hard to see anyone chipping away at their dominance.
Google have more fingers in more pies and are a more diverse company than any of their competitors. Facebook and Twitter undoubtedly have their own strengths and will continue to develop their platforms. But the one thing that no company can do is provide the user with more time in a day, it’s just not possible, so the fight is on for your mind, your heart and your time Dear Reader.
So if you had to cut time from one of these which is it going to be? And if Facebook, Twitter and Apple get together we may just have a game on our hands.