Facebook is growing faster and faster. It is not just a social network. It has become one of the largest Internet companies, posing a threat to the giants – Google, MSFT and Yahoo. And they understand that. They understand that online communication more and more centers on the activity stream or feed. They understand that the social graph might become the most valuable data asset. They understand that they are behind.
Buzz – The end user perspective
Google made a bold move to begin building its market share in the stream arena. They announced Google Buzz is now an integral part of Gmail. So what exactly is Google Buzz? Well, it is not much different than the Facebook newsfeed stream. You share thoughts, links, photos etc. either with everybody or only with friends, and those people in turn can respond to your posts. Google has also created a public profile where all your public posts, together with some personal details you wish to share, are open to anyone.
Buzz – The website perspective
While Google is building its consumer product, Facebook is focused more and more on their relationship with other websites. The Facebook Connect service is their invention to further cement their position with end users. People are now able to login to websites, like ABC.com, using their Facebook account. The sites, in return, can enable users to post to the Facebook newsfeed from their sites in a more efficient way, which drives lots of traffic back to the originating sites. Everybody wins, so everybody integrates Facebook Connect into their site.
Each Facebook Connect implementation contributes to the Facebook database. For example – if a website related to buying cars has implemented Facebook Connect and a user has connected on that site using their Facebook account, Facebook will know that this user may be in the market for buying a car. The data implications go far beyond this example, but that would require a separate blog post.
The bottom line is that Google has this data front to deal with as well. They need to be deeply implemented within websites the same way Facebook Connect is integrated there. Google is already providing an authentication API so theoretically sites can use them to sign-in users, but until there was Buzz, the main value proposition was missing. Sites integrate Facebook Connect because they want it to generate traffic. They want to easily post to the user’s news feed. With the Buzz service focused around the news feed, Google will be able to provide this real value to sites as well.
Google will likely soon release its Buzz API as a direct competitor to Facebook Connect, and sites shouldn’t ignore it.
By Kevin White