Google Needs a Reset

Now Facebook Places. Next Facebook Faces. Then Facebook Realtime Mobile Directory?

by Idris Mootee

Google Needs a ResetWorking on social strategies for very cool companies often includes looking at their competition and coopetition. In the world of business strategy and competition, friends can become enemies overnight. Google is definitely not happy with the idea that Facebook is sitting there with 500 million users (50% of whom are very active). But, what can they do?

Back in 2002, Google was competing with Overture and other search engine for shares. Overture was the search leader and was mining 3.2 billion pages, roughly 70 mm more pages than Google. Shortly thereafter Google climbed to 3.3 billion pages and continued to extend the gap. Soon after Overture bought the Web search assets of AltaVista and Fast Search and Transfer (including AlltheWeb), to compete with Google head on.. and the battle began…

Google won AOL business away from Overture; and Overture won Freeserve away from Google. We will be seeing the same battle all over again when this time Facebook is the rivalry? Google is the place to find anything and that is extending to places with Google Map and Street Views. “Local” is still hole in the Google world. Facebook Places is an innovation to fill that hole with a social-media twist. Facebook users can now “check in” to an existing list of nearby locations from their mobile phones or add new listings themselves, sharing that activity with their friends.

Facebook will potentially become a platform for local business search listings, the same strategy that Google, Yelp, Foursquare, Gowalla, and a few others that are fighting to get local advertising dollars. Facebook Places is the latest example of how information access is empowering new behavior.

We don’t know if these behavior will become mainstream. It is not difficult to imagine that I will be able to use my Facebook app on my mobile device to find local business. I won’t have to open my laptop and Google a restaurant if I can just use my mobile device, with added comments and suggestions from my social networks. Facebook’s decision to add location data to its product instanly creates a Google-scale competitor overnight. With so many businesses already have Facebook pages, it is easy to pay and extend that into Facebook local search. So pages + places = Yellow Pages + instance update on products + prices right in your pocket.

Today, 100 million people a month are using Google’s Maps for Mobile product but it doesn’t mean much in terms of barriers for entry, at least not for Facebook. Google knows very little about me other than what I search but Facebook knows my friends, communities and what I am passionate about. Google needs a reset. Buy Facebook stock if it IPO’s.

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Idris MooteeIdris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.

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