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Allison Carnwath
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"When it started as a search engine, its stated mission was to "organize the world's information". [...]That's why Google desperately needs social, it's the only way to truly organize the world's information and target each and every individual that uses the service in an unprecedented and highly accurate way."
Social Wars - The Empire strikes back


A lot has been said about the ongoing social wars rocking the internetz!
But as I read op-eds and articles, blog posts and thoughts from many online tech venues, columnists, bloggers it seams to me that most are missing the big picture...

After Facebook's f8 conference yesterday and all that has been going in the online battlefield I came to 3 conclusions:

1 - The "new" new Facebook = Memolane + Myspace

2 - We are witnessing the birth of the world's first true recommendation engine, and as such it's the baby step the web 3.0 or semantic web needed.

3 - The outcome of this war will change the world as we know it... And cyber-crack will make us all net junkies.


The "new" new Facebook = Memolane + Myspace

After reviewing Facebook's new feature Timeline, It becomes obvious that Memolane has been much more than an "inspiration". There is a blatant ripoff here... therefore it's concept is not new nor is it's inception on Facebook in any way innovative. What it is is highly lucrative.
What this means is that Facebook has shifted from a purely social interaction platform towards a media & content delivery platform albeit in a social setting. All the content that you produce, consume or conduce others to (pictures, likes, media you watch, read or listen, etc..) is made directly available in a central hub to your "friends" (and to Facebook) and vice-versa (auto-sharing). This information and what can be derived and data mined from it is very valuable, it permits surgical targeting of ads, and that's where the big bucks are.
The problem here, and this is a major strategic failure from Zuckerberg et. al. @ Facebook, is that this raises very serious privacy issues a la Google Buzz . What Facebook still has failed to grasp, after all this time, is that people want to share certain things with certain people, and not everything with every one. This is the one major triumph of the circle paradigm powering G+. On Facebook when they clutter your profile page with everything about you, what you read, listen to, watch, want, your past and present, and make it available for everyone without providing truly adequate privacy options...they're buying a war with their user base, alienating their control and disregarding their input into what they wish the platform becomes. This is not "frictionless sharing" as Mr.Zuckerberg likes to call it, this is senseless sharing, devoid of targeting or context, except for the advertisers, it is gold to their frothing mouths. Yes Facebook will become a verbs dealer to the advertisers and a cyber-crack dealer to you (more on that later). No, this is not the way to do it.
The content comes to you instead of you having to look for it ( good ), but you don't necessarily control it ( bad ). A little dose of intravenous edgerank anyone? Didn't think so.
So in a very near-term evaluation, this is positive for facebook because it shows reaction and nimbleness on their part, it has a certain wow factor. But if you analyse thoroughly and think mid-term and long-term this will generate animosity in a user base notoriously disenfranchised and unwelcoming of certain changes, specially when those changes are for the worst.
Emotion is a volatile thing, it shifts, it changes, it's whimsical. Facebook is plucking the emotional strings of its users, but that symphony is based on a fallacy. Yes, we do not need a share button. No, that does not mean that the sharing has to be automatic in a way that is indiscriminate.

Certain things with certain people, that's where success is certain.

Facebook is the jumbo sized, steroid pumped alpha male in the social room right now, its best feature still is the fact that Grandma Jill, that hot looking stewardess that was winking at you mid-flight and your crazy beer buddies from college are there. But just like Myspace before it: It. Is. Not. Too. Big. To. Fail. In the end it is just a website that provides a service. If the competition manages to provide a better service, should I stay? How can the competition provide a better service?! Read on...



We are witnessing the birth of the world's first true recommendation engine, and as such it's the baby step the web 3.0 or semantic web needed.



Facebook yesterday tried to do more than "seize the internet", as +MG Siegler put it. To me Facebook tried to siege the internet. Facebook was and still is a walled garden, and it's no Eden at that (maybe Google is becoming (the) Apple...humn, there might be something to that though, I'll investigate that in a later post, but for now enough with the tech-biblical analogies). And as a walled garden, instead of opening up to the internet, Facebook is trying to bring the internet into it's confines and having the whole online space playing by their rules and out of their hands.
Google, on the other hand, has a different approach. It's an open approach, where it will frankenstein all its services, namely social and search into one without forcing you to overshare. When it started as a search engine, its stated mission was to "organize the world's information". The thing is relevancy in information is directly proportional to how well it was curated in regards to each persons interests, and the best way to do this is to add the social factor to the equation. The social graph plus the interest graph will power a true recommendation engine, something orders of magnitude more useful than just a search engine or a social network or a media platform. That's why Google desperately needs social, it's the only way to truly organize the world's information and target each and every individual that uses the service in an unprecedented and highly accurate way.
This in turn will provide Google with the kind of data feedback, that in terms of ad brokering is like blowing up the dam in a hypothetical river of money.
That is also why Facebook desperately needs search, in order to become a true recommendation engine. As it stands it's mainly a media platform in a social setting. It must get search. And it must get it yesterday! It has two options here:

1- Buy Yahoo, but if Facebook becomes Yahoo, like +Mike Elgan postulated, it won't work.
2- Go on a honeymoon with Bing cause..you know... Microsoft is good with search(lol). And you already sleep around with Skype, so what the hell.

All this is much more than just a fight, it's a race. The first to get there wins. And wins BIG.
We are all contributing, whether we want to or not towards the embryo of the so-called semantic web. An internet that doesn't just have the content laying around, that doesn't just provide you with the information you need. It understand you AND the content, so that it becomes self-organizing and completely customized to each and every one of you. Yes, it's tech nirvana.
Google is in a unique position here, if it can provide an unintrusive and intuitive melding of it's search and social products and create an online singularity.
To do so it must remember one core principle pertaining to the basis of communication and media as we know it... yes that's it - Semiotics:

Aliquid stat pro aliquo per aliquem - Something stands for something to someone

This can be distilled and added to what I said earlier: Certain things to certain people in a certain way
Facebook does not respect this. Their vision, or lack thereof, does not account for this. It's a gobbled goo of oversharing nastiness. And by the way, this wasn't their mission to start with.
The survival of these two giants depends on how to get this right. It depends on the ability to provide incremental added-value to their service, and the recommendation engine is it. Heck, the world will be irreversibly changed by this online conflict. Don't agree? Can you live and successfully function today without any internet use? Right. Vagrants don't count, although I once saw one with a netbook stealing WiFi from a coffee shop.... sooo yeah, you get the gist.
This brings me to the next point.


The outcome of this war will change the world as we know it... And cyber-crack will make us all net junkies.

Welcome to World War I, aka World War Web.
I as in Internetz.
I as in Identity.
I as in me!
This fight isn't just the fight of the decade. It's the fight for the future. These two companies want to own the internet. And they want to do it through you, and me, and everyone else. In a century gone digital, those who control the identify graph of others are kings. The ad revenue alone will make the winner THE MOST VALUABLE ENTERPRISE IN EXISTENCE. The stakes are astronomically high. Every single person, institution, entity, government is going to need that service to keep up, to stay ahead.
But how will they get us to keep coming back, to stay longer when we do, to not eat, sleep, take Sparky for a walk, or shower for prolonged periods of time ...in essence to keep us using their cyber-crack untill we're all a bunch of inveterate online addicts scratching our mice with thumb sores and offering sexual favors for net time?
Facebook's answer is using it as a toy ( emotion, through pandering ).
Google+'s answer is using it as a tool ( reason, through added-value ).
In order to succeed each service will need a percentage of the other, but not much. Both services will be around for some time, nonetheless the battle is to the death.
The Empire (Facebook), just launched a massive counter-attack but the problem is that their collateral damage IS their own user base. It hit them where it hurts the most: change for the sake of change. They hate that. With a vengeance. It vexes them.
The false underdog owns search, the other one owns social. both will be going at each other's throats.
And hooray for that.

EDIT: I have been getting quite some feedback and insights from people about this post. It is much appreciated. If you wish to share it on any other site or social network here is the permalink : https://plus.google.com/106352275471397691972/posts/j7mFTSMVZGy

Thank you all.

(_Image created by Hogboy: http://www.teefury.com/archive/528/Spacebook _)
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