Andy McKay

Jun 29, 2010

Facebook competitor from Google?

Rumours have been circulating that Google are working on a social networking site to take on Facebook. That's a tough nut to crack. My first thoughts were - no chance, especially after seeing some recent efforts like Wave and Buzz.

It's an interesting problem, because it isn't purely the technical challenge, Google can handle that. It's building a site that isn't too complicated and solves the issues real people have. Some things Google need to avoid:

Not be creepy

Google already knows everything about you, just face up to that fact. If you use Gmail it knows a social graph already about you. So Google could sign everyone up to your social network automatically and then you'll have Buzz. But that's really creepy and we've seen how bad an idea that is for several reasons.

The trick for Google here is not to reveal too much, to allow you to tease it out without you getting freaked out about how much it really knows. The "suggest a friend" page could include your Gmail contacts, your Buzz followers, your Wave followers, people near you. Google knows all this, but just showing it all to you will freak out so many people.

Not have a sucky UI

We've seen the usability problems Google has including the infamous colour blue problem. I still think that Gmail, Reader and Calendar have terrible UI's and that's what always put me off. These days I use most of them in container and apply a nice skin over the top.

Facebook has a pretty good UI. It's a complicated site with a lot going on and I do get lost occasionally, but I prefer it to most Google sites.

Not be geeky

Twitter home page vs Buzz and as for Google Wave? Yeah, right. My 10 year old cousin is unlikely going to be using Wave sometime soon. She pings me regularly on Facebook though.

These are just some points off the top of my head but that's not even getting into why I'd use something other than Facebook at all. Privacy maybe? Oh right, it's Google.