Is this how the world ends for Facebook, not with a bang but a buzz?
Last week, Google (Stock Quote: GOOG) rolled out their version of a social networking tool called Buzz. Like Twitter, it allows users to follow one another and post updates on their lives (with no character limit.) Buzz also makes it easier for users to share content from existing Google features like photos (on their Picasa albums), videos (from YouTube) and interesting news they’ve read (through the Google Reader.)
When you add that all together – sharing photos, links, status updates – plus the fact that Google users have the option to build social profiles, it all starts to sound a lot like Facebook. In the lead up to the Buzz’s launch, many questioned whether this could be a “Facebook killer.” But this wasn’t the first time that Google was accused of stepping into Facebook’s territory. People said the same thing when Google started to allow users to build their own social profiles, and they said it about the launch of Google Wave.
Yet, few seem to recognize that Facebook is gunning for Google at least as much. TechCrunch recently revealed that Facebook is working on creating its own e-mail system. This will essentially overhaul the existing messaging system on Facebook and replace it with a tool that could rival Google. According to TechCrunch, “Internally it’s known as Project Titan. Or, unofficially and perhaps over-enthusiastically, the Gmail killer.”
As if that’s not enough, Facebook has partnered with Microsoft (Stock Quote: MSFT) so that anyone who uses the social networking site also ends up using Bing to search, rather than Google’s search engine. (It’s unclear just how much traffic this could siphon away from Google, but it’s obviously a big win for Microsoft.) And Facebook has just integrated its chat feature with AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), which will undoubtedly challenge Google’s existing chat feature.
The big question is how much success, if any, will each company have crossing over into the other’s territory? Is it really possible that Google could undermine Facebook by adding social networking features? Or that Facebook could somehow end Google’s reign with e-mail? One could argue that they are each so entrenched in their existing services that they are both impenetrable to threats and stagnant to change.
Yet, some do believe in the possibility of a seismic change in cyberspace. Henry Blodget at Business Insider argues that if Facebook can manufacture a unique and advanced e-mail system (rather than just a spinoff of an existing one,) then they could become the dominant mail service. “Facebook is ideally positioned to build a gigantic web-based mail and messaging system. It is much better positioned, in fact, than Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and any other competitor,” Blodget writes.
Meanwhile, though the buzz about Buzz has died down since it first launched, the statistics are already pretty impressive. According to Mashable, there were more than 9 million posts and comments on Buzz in just the first two days, which means there were more than 160,000 entries per hour. That’s an impressive amount, and for Facebook, a threatening success. (One reason Buzz is doing so well is that, unlike Google Wave, it’s actually integrated into Gmail, so it’s easy and intuitive to use.)
For now, Google seems to be winning the battle, simply because they’ve fired most of the shots so far. But more than anything, these two giants could benefit from partnering with each other. Mashable argues that Google Buzz won’t reach its potential until it links with Facebook. (You can read their argument and judge for yourself.) And if Facebook is really interested in e-mail and search, Google is still the best service for both (sorry Microsoft).
Plus, there’s no telling what company or industry Apple might target next, so maybe partnering up would be their best defense.
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