Google HQ

Google HQAccording to many reports, Google is read to launch a competitive service to Facebook. Called Google “Me” it would likely offer similar social networking features—status updates, photo and video sharing—and integrate several of Google’s online services such as Docs, Buzz, Gmail and Google Talk. Speculation at this point is fueled by a Tweet from Digg founder Darren Rose. If we’ve learned anything about micro-blogging and the rapid dissemination of unfiltered information, however, it’s that the untrue stuff travels just as fast—often even faster—than fact-checked reality.

Still, it would be an interesting move by the Mountain View giant. And one that, I fear, would be an equally giant mistake. Facebook and Twitter are the largest parties in town. Google, the leader by a large margin in both search and online advertising, wants a piece of the action. So they stand on the opposite end of town, jumping and hollering: Come join our party! Simply not content to play second fiddle, they launched Google Buzz earlier this year to compete with Twitter. The reaction? A huge yawn, quickly followed by outrage over privacy (Buzz would automatically connect Gmail contacts, for example, creating awkward and intrusive personal situations for many).

If Google Me turns out to be true, it’s the wrong move at the wrong time.

Google has demonstrated its fallibility several times this year. Google Buzz is just one example of over-reaching and showcasing an engineering-drive company trying to play in a consumer space it’s not designed to understand well enough. Google needs to act more like Apple, less like HP and IBM, if it’s serious about making inroads in social media.

Even if they figure out user experience, which surely they can given enough time and focus, you have to question the timing of the move.

Facebook has gone gold. It’s the safe choice for Moms, Dads, even Grandparents… so, why, would anyone want to sign-up for an alternative me-too service? There are several approaches that might work. Myspace, for example, is now considered a niche social network. A large one at that. But still a niche; dominating social networking for the teen-set. Other specialized social sites could emerge that better serve specific demographics, and interests. Google, though, is probably thinking big. Eyeballs after all drive advertising dollars.

But, perhaps they’d be better served to segment the market. Why not differentiate Google Me from Facebook, for example, by targeting soccer moms? Or, even better, by building out a tech-haven for the 18-30 year olds who are “Digging”, “Tweeting” and “Facebooking” about the latest gadgets every day?

At this point, it’s all conjecture. Over the coming days and weeks, it will be interesting to see what Google has up its sleeve.

Tweet by Kevin Rose:

“Ok, umm, huge rumor: Google to launch Facebook competitor very soon “Google Me”, very credible source.”

Clinton Stark
Clinton shoots videos for Stark Insider. San Francisco Bay Area arts, Ingmar Bergman and French New Wave, and chasing the perfect home espresso shot 25 seconds at a time (and failing). Peloton: ClintTheMint. Camera: Video Gear