The voyeurs of social media would have you believe that people want to connect with other people on an instinctive level, that humans are purely social animals. And who can prove them wrong? Mark Zuckerberg and his peer wunderkind have built the framework to our digital connections and we’re lured in again and again. We fill them with our thoughts, our relationships, our cereal choices. And it makes Google nervous.
Last week’s beta release of Google+ was a triumph for the company, whose history with social networking is one “almost” after another.
Orkut, Google’s first social network was a huge success … in Brazil. Released in 2004, the service failed to materialize a strong user base domestically and eventually, it seemed like Google just tired of it.
(LIST: 5 Failed Social Networks Even Worse Than MySpace)
Meanwhile, Facebook thrived in Google’s blind spot. Born out of Harvard’s dorms, the site created a shadow web, a walled-up version of Internet activity that Google can’t read. Google+ is the company’s social fledgling designed to take on Facebook, or, to wipe the embarrassment off of its chin after previous failed attempts at entering the social stratosphere.
Social media isn’t really something Google saw as a priority until Facebook locked them out. Facebook activity – user information, shares, Likes – can’t be indexed, archived, or even sold against by Google. The Internet as seen through Google is now only a piece of the greater web story – and the company is scared.
In 2010, Facebook’s web consumption grew 69 percent, making the traditional, indexed Internet much less relevant. Within the last year, All Things Digital reported that Facebook’s share of users’ time online grew from one out of every 13 minutes of use in the U.S., to one out of every eight.
This took more than half a billion hours of use (more than 800 lifetimes) away from outside sites like Google. Ben Elowitz, founder and CEO of Wetpaint describes it well: “And here’s what’s different when you connect people, as opposed to pages: Now, the Web knows who we are (identity), is with us at all times wherever we go (mobile), threads our relationships with others (social), and delivers meaningful experiences beyond just text and graphics (video).”
This leaves impersonal, algorithm-focused Google an antiquated web relic of searches past.
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