I was listening to This Week in Google where Jeff Jarvis, Gina Trapani and Leo Laporte were discussing the issue of Google’s social strategy. The main point of discussion was what Facebook and Twitter are doing. Facebook has more than half a billion users but still not able to provide proper recommendations, while Twitter had over 180 million users and it has an excellent recommendation system. The topic that skimmed up was it’s not the users that matter, it’s the relationships that matters the most for any social strategy.
On the other side, Google has a lot of users but not a successful social strategy. Google has shown it’s capabilities by providing us ‘Priority Inbox’ which is a testimonial that with enough data, Google can mine excellent relationships and eventually recommendations. How does Google get into the game? They have money, engineering capabilities but a lot of failed social attempts too. One thing is they can harness the fire hose provided by Twitter but that would not suffice all needs of Google.
One of the options is for Google to have it’s own Social Network (Google Me?), but we know form past experiences (Orkut, Buzz, Latitude) that Google cannot build a good social network. Then how do they get all the data they want? At that time I wondered what if we bring Android into the picture. One of the most fascinating things about Android is it’s contact sync. Google syncs all the contacts from Phonebook, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and other application into one phonebook. They do an excellent job of figuring out which users/handle/userid belong to same person and bundle it together.
I see it as opportunity for Google; by capturing a large market in Smartphone they have a system where they can capture a lot of data with just one primary key – gmailid. With more and more usage of mobile platform people use twitter, Facebook, Skype and voice calls, all from one device. If that device is capable of capturing all the data and building a social graph internally then I see Gold for Google. Google can have it’s own ‘Friend Rank’ algorithm which will rank friends based on number of calls, frequency, twitter replies, wall posts, picture messages, email threads and many more small parameters. Once friends are ranked, that data can be passed to Google servers. And that data can be utilized to provide better “social” search results.
Main part about this is privacy implications. That is why I think building of Social Graph has to be done on mobile. That data should not be sent over airwaves. Once the platform calculates the graph, it can store on Google servers, as reverse engineering of that graph is not possible. It’s just an idea, where I think Google can be headed to.