Google Me: a Social Upgrade, Not a New Service

Eric Schmidt said at the Google Zeitgeist conference that Google will add social features to the existing services, but it won’t launch a standalone product to compete with Facebook.

“We’re trying to take Google’s core products and add a social component. If you think about it, it’s obvious. With your permission, knowing more about who your friends are, we can provide more tailored recommendations. Search quality can get better. Everybody has convinced themselves that there’s some huge project about to get announced next week. And I can assure you that’s not the case,” said Eric Schmidt, according to MSNBC.

Google’s CEO also said that “the best thing that would happen is for Facebook to open up its data. Failing that, there are other ways to get that information.”

Wall Street Journal speculates that YouTube is one of the services that will add more social features. For example, you’ll be able to see when a video is watched by many of your friends.

Ever since Google Profiles has been launched, back in 2007, Google added social features to services like Google Maps, Google Reader, iGoogle, but failed to create a compelling interface that integrates all these features. The most important attempt to integrate Google’s social services is Google Buzz and Google should focus on improving Buzz, create a standalone interface for people that don’t use Gmail, adding more privacy features, introducing reciprocal friendship and building a meaningful social graph.

Until Google users can answer the question: “who are my Google friends?”, Google will never be able to develop successful social services. Are they the Google Chat buddies, the contacts from the Friends group, the people you follow in Google Buzz? Google ignored for many years Gmail’s contact manager and automatically added entries to the address book when you replied to Gmail messages. The problem was only solved when Google launched a business version of Gmail and users wanted to sync their contacts. Now Google will have to solve the friendship issue.

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