Clash of the Titans: Google and Facebook infringe on one another’s turf

Have you heard about Google Buzz?

An article from Business Insider provides some information on the context into which the service emerges.

Google is about to make its umpteenth foray into the world of social networking: It’s expanding the “status update” feature on Gmail, a direct attack on Twitter and Facebook,according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

If this is anything like Google’s previous attempts to “get” social — OpenSocial, Orkut, Google Friend Connect, Latitude, etc. — it will not be a winner.

Only now, it’ll be a loser at a time when Facebook is supposedly working on a full-fledged email service that would directly compete with Google’s Gmail — and could be very threatening.

The solution Dan Frommer advocates in this article is for Google to buy Twitter, a move that would probably be analogous to its decision to by YouTube even as it had been developing its own video service.

So, GMail has, in effect, integrated microblogging and, if rumors are true, Facebook is planning to introduce a full fledged email service.  These two services are definitely competing on each others turf.  Moreover,  if we look at the arc of development for Facebook, we find that is has been gradually adapting its status updates so that they can function more like the tweets in Twitter.  These giants are definitely fighting for turf, the turf being you and me and a share of the time we spend online.

The development of social media is interesting.  The internet made its way into American homes carried by the Titans: Earthlink, Compuserve, Prodigy and the one that would rise above them all, America On Line, or AOL!  AOL was, at least in part, a kind of social network.  There were chat rooms, forums, and a wide variety of ways one could interact with other members.  But it was a closed social network.  A country club, in effect.  And you were supposed to do everything in AOL.  AOL only reluctantly opened up to the WWW at all, and they tried to keep you in their browser when they did.

But the mighty will always fall and in technology where time is measured in nanoseconds, their reign was short.  Then came the WWW bringing a wealth of information from all over into our homes.  It gradually become more interactive and social media was born.  The social media sites that did well and went on to become giants tended to be those that played well with others.  There are a number of reasons why the popularity of Facebook quickly surpassed that of MySpace once it ceased to be a set of closed networks, but I contend that one of the biggest was the fact that it made a strategic decison not to close itself off from other sites and networks.  You didn’t have to upload your photos into Facebook to share them in Facebook.  If you like sharing music on the iLike social network, then there is a Facebook plugin.  Now you can use both Facebook and Google logins to sign in to massive numbers of other sites.

But notice that more often than not it is about bringing content from other sites into Facebook.  Notice, too, on the page introducing Google Buzz! that the same is true there.  It seems to me that the social media giants are in a race to become the next AOL.  The trend toward interoperability has its limits and we are beginning to see those.