What Would it Take for Google to Lure You Away from Facebook?

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There’s some pitter-patter on the worldwide web concerning a rumored project simply known as Google Me. It all started with a Twitter update from Digg founder Kevin Rose saying that he’d heard a rumor from a “very credible source” that Google would be launching a “Facebook competitor very soon” called Google Me. That tweet has since been removed, which may or may not indicate that Google asked him to do so.

Then a former Facebook higher-up named Adam D’Angelo chimed in, saying the following:

“Here is what I’ve pieced together from some reliable sources:

This is not a rumor. This is a real project. There are a large number of people working on it. I am completely confident about this.

– They realized that Buzz wasn’t enough and that they need to build out a full, first-class social network. They are modeling it off of Facebook.

– Unlike previous attempts (before Buzz at least), this is a high-priority project within Google.

– They had assumed that Facebook’s growth would slow as it grew, and that Facebook wouldn’t be able to have too much leverage over them, but then it just didn’t stop, and now they are really scared.”

Facebook has made no qualms about going after Google, hiring away Google’s VP of Global Online Sales and Operations, Sheryl Sandberg, to become Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer. And the recent introduction of Facebook’s Open Graph protocol is seen by many as a direct attempt to entice members to conduct their web searches from within Facebook itself—no need to hop over to Google to look something up.

You may recall that Google’s tried its hand at the whole social networking thing already. There’s Orkut, an actual social network that never really caught on in the US, though it’s apparently huge in Brazil and India. And then there’s Buzz, a Twitter-like something or other that’s been buried in most people’s inboxes in favor of, well, Twitter.

And therein lies Google’s main challenge. How do you lure people away from a service they already use?

Is Buzz vastly superior to Twitter? You can embed photos and full blog posts into Buzz and you can see people’s comments on your updates. Cool, sure, but Twitter is still the go-to standard for simple, short, ADD-friendly updates. Google’s made it clear that its strategy is “mobile first” and, wouldn’t you know it, the mobile version of Google Buzz is actually pretty awesome if you’ve bothered to use it. The desktop version, however, isn’t providing a good reason to dump Twitter.

If the rumors are to be believed, it’d stand to reason that Google would leverage Buzz as the newsfeed-type feature of Google Me. And Google has millions of users already, which would make signing up for Google Me a snap. But like it learned with Buzz, just having a lot of users doesn’t mean much without giving them a good reason to switch.

It can easily replicate most or all of Facebook’s features—friending, photos, apps, videos, etc.—but it’s going to need to give people features they won’t find elsewhere. Otherwise, nobody needs yet another social network to join.

So what would it take for you to leave Facebook for Google Me? I got dragged into Facebook kicking and screaming because I don’t care all that much to connect with people I haven’t seen in 15 years (I use Facebook only for personal friends I know in real life and Twitter for work-related connections) but it’s mildly amusing to see who’s doing what every once in awhile. For me, Google would first and foremost need to provide a way for users to import their Facebook profile information and, next, most of everyone I’m friends with on Facebook would have to switch to Google Me.

A simplified interface would be nice, too. I don’t spend enough time inside Facebook to know where everything is located and the rare instances when I want to tweak something, it seems like all the options are multiple menus deep. There’s also a certain allure to having all your Google-related stuff in one place: Cram Gmail, search, Google Voice, Google Wave, the rumored Google Music service, Google Docs, Google Maps, YouTube, Google Reader, and whatever else all under one roof and I’d be inclined to switch.

And then there’s the privacy issues. You don’t hear much from regular Facebook users about privacy but you hear plenty from tech bloggers and pundits about the company’s mismanagement of users’ data. Google would be wise to get the privacy aspects of Google Me right the first time, if only to get some positive press from the oh-so influential tech media. I don’t actually think too many people would switch based on what we in the media say. The basic key will be to do what Facebook does, but better, just like Facebook replaced Friendster, MySpace, and all the social networks before them.

But I digress. What would it take for you to switch?

More on Techland:

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Only Hot Chicks Care About Facebook Privacy

Google’s Rumored Music Store and Why It Just Might Work