ifindkarma. elegance is refusal.

July 13, 2010

Pandas and Lobsters: Why Google Cannot Build Social Applications…

After researching what pandas do all day, I was struck by how panda-like we are when we use the Internet.

Roaming a massive world wide web of forests, most of our time is spent searching for delicious bamboo and consuming it. 40 times a day we’ll poop something out — an email, a text message, a status update, maybe even a blog post — and then go back to searching-and-consuming.

For a decade, Google has trained us to optimize our pandic selves:

The kind of application that Google knows how to make well are the kind that embody a panda’s “eats, shoots, and leaves” model of Internet behavior. Pandas spend every waking hour foraging — aka searching — and consuming. The most successful Google applications serve such a utilitarian mandate, too: they encourage users to search for something, consume, and move onto the next thing. Get in, do your business, get out. Do a Google search, slurp down information, move on. Pull up Google maps or Gmail or Google news, do something, leave. Where Google does not excel is in making applications that are by their nature for lingering and luxuriating — the so-called social applications.

What’s the main difference between successful Google applications (search, maps, news, email) and a successful social applications? With Google applications we return to the app to do something specific and then go on to something else, whereas great social applications are designed to lure us back and make us never want to leave.

Consider this example: Google Answers focused on answers and failed; Yahoo! Answers focused on social and succeeded. The primary purpose of a social application is connecting with others, seeing what they’re up to, and maybe even having some small, fun interactions that though not utilitarian are entertaining and help us connect with our own humanity. Google apps are for working and getting things done; social apps are for interacting and having fun.

Put another way, Google designing social apps is like Microsoft designing iPod packaging.

Now, consider the Four Horsemen of Hotness in 2010: Facebook, Quora, Foursquare, and Twitter. Think deeply about why none of these four could have been developed inside Google.

Facebook is a lobster trap and your friends are the bait. On social networks we are all lobsters, and lobsters just wanna have fun. Every time a friend shares a status, a link, a like, a comment, or a photo, Facebook has more bait to lure me back. Facebook is literally filled with master baiters: Whenever I return to Facebook I am barraged with information about many friends, to encourage me to stick around and click around. Every time I react with a like or comment, or put a piece of content in, I’m serving as Facebook bait myself. Facebook keeps our friends as hostages, so although we can check out of Hotel Facebook any time we like, we can never leave. So we linger. And we lurk. And we luxuriate. The illogical extreme of content-as-bait are the Facebook games where the content is virtual bullshit. Social apps are lobster traps; Google apps do not bait users with their friends.

Quora is restaurant that serves huge quantities of bacn and toast. Quora is a dozen people running dozens of experiments in how to optimally use bacn to get people to return to Quora, and how to use toast to keep them there. Bacn is email you want but not right now, and Quora has 40 flavors of it that you can order. Quora’s main use of Bacn is to sizzle with something delicious (a new answer to a question you follow, a new Facebook friend has been caught in the Quora lobster trap, etc.) to entice you to come back to Quora. Then, once you’re there, the toast starts popping. Quora shifts the content to things you care about and hides things you don’t care about in real-time, and subtly pops up notifications while you’re playing, to entice you to keep sticking around and clicking around. Some toast is so subtle it doesn’t even look like a pop-up notification — it just looks like a link embedded in the page with some breadcrumbs that appear in real-time to take you to some place on Quora it knows you’ll find irresistible. For every user’s action, bacn’s and toast’s fly out to others in search of reactions. (Aside: if I were Twitter, I would be worried. Real-time user interfaces are more addictive than pseudo-real-time interfaces; what if Quora took all of its technology and decided to use it to build a better Twitter?) Social apps are action-reaction interaction loops; Google apps are designed just for action.

Foursquare exists in a dozen dimensions. That statement is ridiculous on its surface; after all, even String Theory has only 11 dimensions. (Technically, it’s 10 dimensions, beca
use they start numbering at zero.) Whatever higher-than-the-highest reality Foursquare thinks it’s building, one thing is clear: this company is more about chemistry than physics. Foursquare has studied the works of David A. Kessler, who studied hyper-palatable foods that had various combinations of salts, fats, and sugars that stimulate the diner’s brain to crave more, rather than satisfy their hunger. The more a person uses Foursquare, the more a person wants to use Foursquare: the points are salts, the badges are fats, and sweet sweet mayorships are sugars that we fight over like we’re
 Sneetches. Ok, so Foursquare’s leadership thinks they’re only 10% of the way there — I guess they have 11 other combinations of salts, fats, and sugars to perfect so that all we do all day, every day, is check into Foursquare. Social apps offer a steady diet of junk food to keep us addicted; Google apps offer mostly bamboo.

Twitter is a giant blue ball machine. Even the New York Times says not enough people understand what the heck Twitter is, for them to be willing to use the word tweet in polite company. But that doesn’t stop lots of people from using Twitter. Perhaps they are enamored by a word that sounds ornithological in nature. I tried to explain it to my brother like this: tweets are little blue balls, and they get bounced around by a giant machine so others can enjoy them. Those people can react by copying the balls (retweets), swinging at the balls (at-replies), or beaning the originator in the head (direct messages). There are also lots of whales on Twitter — celebrity whales to attract us, and fail whales to repel us. As opposed to Facebook, which hates whales because whales distract the lobsters from the traps. At this point, my brother gives me a blank stare and says he’s going back to Facebook. Which goes to show that a social app doesn’t need lobster traps, bacn and toast, or 12 dimensions to be successful; it just needs balls. Social apps are whimsical and fun; Google apps are whittled and functional.

So why can’t Google build social apps? Because Google’s core values (“be useful”, “do good by users”) reject the very notion of lobster traps, bacn and toast, a dozen dimensions of junk food, and giant blue ball machines. Understanding those concepts is not easy. It takes lots of practice, and lots of patience, and lots of learning.

2010’s leadership of Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter struggled for YEARS learning from FriendFeed, Dodgeball, and Odeo, respectively. The main mythical man month mega mantra — “build one to throw away” — isn’t just a clever way to gracefully fail on the first iteration; it’s the way we learn. I believe those collective experiences have given them the humility to know that most things don’t work; the confidence to know that simplicity is more important than features; and the stamina to see their visions through the good, the bad, and the ugly that accompany startups.

Does Google have the patience to launch social apps that aren’t widely used so they can learn from them? Not Lively.

Does Google have the ability to launch social apps that aren’t utilitarian? Repeat after me: “A Buzz is a high-frequency Wave.” And neither pandas nor lobsters know what those are, other than wacky experiments gone awry.

Has Google’s culture-of-facts ever learned from Orkut? Good question for the triumvirate. A humbler panda than me once tweeted:

So, to summarize: Google is responsible for Orkut, Wave, and Buzz. Ex-Googlers are responsible for Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter. Discuss.

Ok, I’ll discuss. I have three main points:
  1. Google cannot hire a Head of Social because no individual can change Google’s DNA of building applications for pandas, not lobsters. Googlers who wanted to develop great social applications had to leave Google to do so.
  2. Google cannot buy Twitter or LinkedIn or Quora (or all three!) because Google’s culture has no respect for successful social applications. YouTube’s office is still far from the Google campus to avoid the toxic attitude described by a former Orkut employee, “[Google has] an environment that viewed social networking as a frivolous form of entertainment rather than a real utility, and I’m pretty sure this viewpoint was shared all the way up the chain of command to the founders.
  3. Google cannot focus group its way to successful social applications. Henry Ford opined, If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.
And three reasons why Google should be concerned:
  1. Facebook serves 3 billion LIKE buttons a day, serves one-sixth of all U.S. ads, has more traffic than Google or the next 99 sites combined, has 100 million mobile users and five times as many web users, and when it launches a Facebook search engine, it will be the second biggest search engine in the world right out of the gate.
  2. Twitter’s search engine is bigger than Bing and Yahoo combined. Not only is Twitter doing 800 million searches a day, but apparently they’re the fastest growing search engine in the U.S.
  3. Bing actually seems to have a better relationship with Facebook and Twitter, and in addition, Bing has gone out of its way to partner with Amazon as well as Apple and its soon-to-be-100-million iPhone OS devices.
So… Now would be a good time for a bold move from Google. YouTube is the only social application Google has ever bought that was and remains #1 in its category. What can we learn from that?
  1. Google FAILED going head-to-head against YouTube. Buying YouTube in retrospect was a great idea, and keeping YouTube separate from Google HQ was a great idea.
  2. Google FAILED in acquiring and integrating other social products. Blogger, Picasa, JotSpot, Dodgeball, Jaiku. None are their category leaders now. Some are dead. Why?
  3. Google FAILED to create Google Contacts that are easy to edit and integrated with Facebook and Twitter. Why then should we believe Google can do something simple, entertaining,  and interesting with Google Profiles?
Google is filled with adrenaline now that Facebook and Twitter are juggernauts in social advertising and searching. Google is ready to fight, but social applications are about loving not fighting. Google is from Mars, and social applications are from Venus. Anyone know someone who can build a rocket ship so Google can ride to the world of social applications?

My advice for Google’s Trinity is to put on your thinking caps about social apps. Think really carefully about what you need, and why. Look to the glorious words of jwz:

“Social software” is about making it easy for people to do other things that make them happy: meeting, communicating, and hooking up.

And for all us lobsters, I just have one thing to say: “Yeah, you’re all gonna be okay.



  1. I’ve been meaning to write a post just like this. Good read.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2010 @ 2:15 am

  2. Great post..I am that panda and sometimes a lobster, does that make me a landa or a pobster?

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2010 @ 2:26 am

  3. Great post – thanks for the read. I like Pobster, personally.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2010 @ 2:41 am

  4. Interesting post Adam. It will be interesting to see how much Google has learned from its previous attempts when they roll out their new profile product.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2010 @ 2:44 am

  5. Wow, great analysis. I’m now going to open up a book of mammals and see what other animals I’ve been missing…

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2010 @ 2:45 am

  6. I think you’re right, companies become great because they can do one thing well and for Google that isn’t ‘social’… on the other hand "doing something specific" is exactly why Google prints money and the others struggle to monetize huge traffic.

    Comment by brianmba — July 13, 2010 @ 3:29 am

  7. Master piece!! Love the analogies and agree with what you shared here. Superb analysis and breakdown.Google can change, it’s a choice. You’re right, it starts at the top. Talking about it and being about it are 2 different things separated by execution and continuously improving. Time will tell as Bob Marley said. Google him ;-)Now here’s a trick, imagine a social app that allows you to be a panda, lobster, bamboo, bacon, toast at the speed of a click. An app where you can be the trap or the empowering space at the same time.Customisation, personalisation, education and empowerment all at the same time in a gestalt kind of way. It is what it is. You see what you want to see. Be who you want to be.Thanks FacetweetOrkutTubeLobsteracon ;-)IMO, this is more than apps being social, this will be about the internet evolving into social. Apps are the culinary delights we feast on. How we interact in the dining room/restaurant is up to us.The internet of things.Thank you.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2010 @ 3:34 am

  8. Great post! Delicious panda… uh I mean lobster, with bacn on toast!

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2010 @ 3:38 am

  9. Awesome.I was interested to know where the ‘Twitter is like a giant blue ball machine’ analogy was headed.I thought it might refer to a users abrupt read of 140 characters, leaving them with something to be.. concluded by way of direct link

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2010 @ 4:07 am

  10. I don’t buy it. Google has launched multiple successful social services, not just youtube. Gmail, while not what one traditionally considers a social network, is definitely a social application, not a utilitarian panda-application, and it is often regarded as best-in-class for web email. Blogger is likely still the largest blogging platform in terms of users and visitors (some *old* stats here: http://seekingalpha.com/article/50554-social-networking-sites-blogger-is-biggest-facebook-growing-fastest). Google Groups is probably the most popular in it’s class as well.The average Joe has never heard of Foursquare or Quora and knows very little about Twitter. That same person is likely to be at least somewhat familiar with blogger, gmail, or google groups and probably a user of at least one of these.To some of the points you raise:Twitter’s search engine is not bigger than Bing and Yahoo combined: http://gregable.com/2010/04/twitter-queries-and-telephone-game.html . Facebook may have just slightly more traffic than google.com, but that’s only one of many of Google’s properties, and if you think of the way that people interact with a social network compared to a search engine, it’s definitely more engagement. Not to say that where facebook has gone is not impressive.Similarly, the ads numbers you cite include only ads served on properties owned by the companies – again the number of pageviews seen on a social network tends to be higher than search, so more ads served. That said, engagement with ads is much higher in search. Also, Bing’s presence on the iPhone seems tiny compared to Google considering the maps, gmail, search, apps interaction that Google has created.

    Comment by gregable — July 13, 2010 @ 4:53 am

  11. Couldn’t put my finger on it, but you have. Awesome post

    Comment by TantienHime — July 13, 2010 @ 5:25 am

  12. Or to put another way, goog has engineers and engineer by their very nature are not THAT social.

    Comment by lesliehm — July 13, 2010 @ 6:09 am

  13. gregable-i love what google does and is but we are talking about the social web here. With all due respect no one should ever hire an engineer to analyze social behavior. Google is obviously not trying to be a "social network." I interact with google in a "get er’ done" fashion. Facebook is where i spend time developing relationships of all types. The emotional attachment is many times greater then with Google activities. That is the power you dont understand. Everyone has an email app and google bought blogger so what social apps have they CREATED. Google groups i use for connecting with software developers and if you havent heard of Twitter in the mainstream press you are DEAD.

    Comment by REALWINELISTS — July 13, 2010 @ 8:08 am

  14. I agree with your post, but it will be quite disheartening to see facebook launch a search engine because of there total disregard for open web standards ( for example, OpenGraph ), and privacy concerns. Of course this won’t stop the average population from using it, but it will kill the small community of developers who know that it was openness that always propelled the web.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2010 @ 11:42 am

  15. Excellent post, captures the dynamics really well. I had some similar thoughts in a post awhile back, positioning Google as the "conversational nerd", awkward in social settings ;)http://www.evansink.com/2009/02/is-google-the-conversational-nerd/It’s just a hunch but I’d bet Twitter will become Google’s next YouTube. Pay big, give it lots of room, and let’s the ecosystem form around it in an open dev model. It’s more of a platform play than a pure social model, so it’s closer to a viable connected asset.

    Comment by perryevans — July 13, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

  16. Google’s relevance in social is slipping away on the surface. Behind the scenes they have gathered immense amounts of social graph data from not only Google application users but also from the 90% of all uniquely identifiable web users who hit pages loaded with Google Analytics and AdSense ads. I agree that Google doesn’t understand how to create a compelling user experience for social. But between the crazes for Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, and now Twitter – I think it’s reasonable to assume that the masses are fed up with moving from one social network to another. I think Google’s strategy was (and still is to an extent) to use open standards and protocols to create a much more open and distributed social web. It’s barely had any momentum between Open Social, Wave, and Buzz. But then again, they ARE sitting on mountains of social data that we can’t conceive of. So don’t count them out quite yet.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

  17. Well said! If Google wants to lead Social then it has to change at the TOP.

    Comment by derekmercer — July 13, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

  18. Excellent analysis; thank you!

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

  19. > Technically, it’s 10 dimensions, because they start numbering at zero.I disagree. There are still 10 dimensions, although the last one is the 10th. The ‘0 based’ counting doesn’t alter the number of elements 🙂

    Comment by reidrac — July 13, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

  20. I mean 11 (and that mistake nuked all the awesomeness and efect of my comment).Good article anyway 🙂

    Comment by reidrac — July 13, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

  21. Good work! I would have distiguished between lobsters (social sites) and crabs (Google, just because), but that’s the Smothers Brothers in me. http://lyricsplayground.com/alpha/songs/c/crabswalksideways.shtmlSpeaking of social, I’m completing my novel "Executive Severance," published entirely on Twitter. I intend to repost the entire thing, a post every half hour starting 7/19/10 at 8:00 AM EST. Follow me at RKBs_Twitstery.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

  22. "even String Theory has only 11 dimensions. (Technically, it’s 10 dimensions, because they start numbering at zero.)" I think it is 11 (0-10), at least in M-Theory.

    Comment by dawsdesign — July 13, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

  23. The difference is this. Google measures and builds on aggregation of coordinate effects (independent actions)l. It provides reference goods based on those coordinate actions. Success in the Google model is dependent upon technology, algorithmic logic, etc., Social portals, another form of social production model, build value based on cooperative effects. They attract eye balls in a different way. In social portals, a form of network behavior, the personal value lies in the connections being made and the exchange that takes place from those connections. The greater the number of connections, the higher the exchange, the greater is the Total Network Value. The social portal models have to then achieve Value Conversion – something that Google actually does very well. You are right. The skills to achieve value from business models built on aggregation of coordinate effects is much different than one built on cooperative effects. And it is tough to bridge the two. However, both Google and Facebook will make best efforts. The challenge is that there are other forms of networks and value creation than either have core competency in advancing. That will be the next evolution of discussion and analysis. Both Google and Facebook are still eye ball models. The social industry is likely to advance well beyond those constructs.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

  24. I could not agree with this more. For a long time I’ve been thinking the same thing, but couldn’t quite put my finger on why Google is like that. You’ve done so perfectly. A great post.

    Comment by S2DigitalMedia — July 13, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

  25. I love the social networking metaphors – a very smart summary.

    Comment by Proxpro — July 13, 2010 @ 3:25 pm

  26. Good read. Panda & Lobsters with bacn and toast.

    Comment by alanhowell — July 13, 2010 @ 3:42 pm

  27. Insightful, but omits the key point that Google has grown massively at the hands of large team of career recruiters. If there’s ever a job that gives someone a sense of entitlement and deadens a person’s creativity and innovation, it’s that. The innovators who work at Google either joined early, have been acquired, or have left.

    Comment by xuchamp — July 13, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

  28. Great article! I hope someone from Google would read this…

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2010 @ 5:00 pm

  29. Great article, Adam.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

  30. Great post. However, one thing I’d caution against is phrasing this as a ‘problem’ for Google.Don’t forget that they’re practically printing money while Facebook is only flirting with profitability.Google could get all the commercial benefits of social apps (e.g. enhanced data) without needing to build any. Developing "beneath the surface" social graphs without making apps based on it could be all they need to remain wildly profitable into the future.

    Comment by PeterTanham — July 13, 2010 @ 6:20 pm

  31. Excellent article on Google, Social Media and the future of marketing

    Comment by steelbank — July 13, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

  32. I think you thought up this entire theory just so you could use the phrase "master baiters."

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

  33. Maybe Google will end up creating a social-utility application that will be the basis of the transition to a new and resilient Network Economy, while Facebook users are still sending each other cat pictures.Both are good.One implication of this model might be that Google should stop trying to make pointless-fun social apps. But maybe there is some learning going on there, just not the kind of learning that will lead to a FourSquare.

    Comment by BillSeitz — July 13, 2010 @ 11:30 pm

  34. Adam,Great article on Google & Social. One thing i am curious: i tried using Quora but did not get the toast & bacn that you are talking about. I got some email notifications but nothing that would make me want to really go back.

    Comment by socialwok — July 14, 2010 @ 6:33 am

  35. Amazing piece of content!

    Comment by Anonymous — July 14, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

  36. so.. I think google (through gmail) has built the pyramid from the bottom up. My contacts (people I "actually" communicate with) are all already there and my account is primed for a social offering from google. My $.02

    Comment by phensler — July 14, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

  37. Google still reigns in the personal email market though. Also, I’m a huge fan of Google Reader for info aggregation, but not sure of its general popularity. I think as long as people are still emailing, and I think long-form will always be around to some extent, Google will stay alive.Search is a different story. But still think search within an open system (not closed within Twitter or Facebook) will always be important.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 14, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

  38. Not sure why anyone thinks Google has to beat Facebook, or Facebook beat Google, for that matter. Nobody beats up on Cond?? Nast for not beating Disney. We should step beyond thinking of the internet industry as one industry and start thinking about it as several distinct industries that happen to be delivered over the internet.Google is an ad serving business and a yellow pages business. It offers a task-focused set of products. They were designed in a corporate culture that, in my experience at least, isn’t very social at all. Not anti-social, just not naturally or easily social.That doesn’t mean that Google shouldn’t be allowed to experiment outside its core competency. Buzz and Wave and Orkut were originally never intended to be segment-dominating products. They are examples of creative play by very smart software engineers. Wave in particular is the productized expression of the way the Rasmussen brothers like to work with their team at Google. They’re unique individuals and, well, Wave works better for them than it does for me. Wave, Buzz and Orkut were all launched quite low-key by the company (Orkut wasn’t launched at all) and have had very little resources put towards them since launch. It was us ??? the Opinionati ??? who huffed and puffed until they seemed 10x bigger. If anyone wanted to see if they’d be Facebook killers it was us, not Google.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 15, 2010 @ 1:46 am

  39. This column is worth a few thousand shared of the founders’ stock!

    Comment by Anonymous — July 15, 2010 @ 6:10 pm

  40. Long time listener, first time poster. Google is like the PBS of the Internet, while Facebook, Zynga, Quora and Twitter are competing to become the new ABC/CBS/NBC. These upstarts are taking the engagement dynamic Google is so darn good at, and applying it in a way that taps into the cultural zeitgeist in a way that is fun. In that way, Farmville is exactly like "I Love Lucy" in its appeal to a broad dynamic. Just as you once couldn’t imagine life without Lucille Ball, so to does it seem right now that Farmville will just go on and on. But here’s my prediction: Zynga will keep churning out the hits by targeting increasingly focused audiences, until the environment starts getting a bit more cluttered, at which point we will probably see "pop ups" and "pilot" programs, so they can see what programs resonate best with advertisers and audiences. (Two Zynga principals – Marc Pincus and Jeremy Verba – are cable TV alumni.) History is repeating itself. When cable TV operators started canvassing the country talking to cities about setting up local TV networks, it was very egalitarian. There were grandiose visions of PEG channels that would make the best educational programming available to every local child, of demystifying Town Hall and making it easier to work with, and I’d go on but I’m afraid I’m going to get sick. My point is that while everyone talked a good game, the reality was that the biggest contribution that PEG channels ultimately made to Western culture was the infomercial. (OK, Brian Lamb *did* create C-SPAN, but that largely happened because Mr Lamb executed so well, not because of anything that happened at the local level. But I digress.) My point is that cable TV, like broadcast TV before it, started with high aspirations only to find fulfillment in lowbrow fare. Shelley Duvall’s brilliant vision of children’s TV was ultimately eclipsed by an eccentric billboard pitchman’s notion of a UHF network on steroids. We say we love educational programming. But our clickstream shows we are lying our collective asses off. Some things never change. (My original blog post on this topic: http://bit.ly/desiluredux)

    Comment by Anonymous — July 16, 2010 @ 2:57 am

  41. ehehe huhu he said master baiters.. Sorry that was my inner Beavis. This is a great article you seem to be the go to guy for witty analogy/analysis.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 16, 2010 @ 10:08 am

  42. err, you said "String Theory has only 11 dimensions. (Technically, it’s 10 dimensions, because they start numbering at zero.) "Well no.. if you’re trying to state how MANY dimensions there are then it’s irrelevant where you start counting. 0..9 (zero to nine) would be 10 dimensions. 0..11 would be 10.If you wrote this the other way around it might be closer:String Theory has only 10 dimensions. (Technically, it’s 11 dimensions, because they start numbering at zero.) So which is it? 0 to 9/10/11?Other than that pedantic issue I dig your post =)thanx!

    Comment by Anonymous — July 16, 2010 @ 10:02 pm

  43. bugger, typo:0..11 would be *12*or0..10 would be 11

    Comment by Anonymous — July 16, 2010 @ 10:03 pm

  44. Hmmm… the article implies that company culture at Google has such an influence that it makes it _impossible_ to create this type of simple applications. The author’s interpretation of how the market has evolved (in reality driven mostly by snowball/network expansion effect and not by the features or by the "knowledge of social" of the companies that are succeeding) implies that the google and its management are blind and can’t understand or be aware of their "limitations". I think smart, strategic people (like most at Google’s leadership) can analyze the problem in a deeper manner than the author gives them credit for. They not only have the grey matter but also the green ($) matter that give them access to the best analysis by non-techies (or techies) that exists. The trivial reductionism of the article can be used as a model to explain the evolution of the market place to little kids or teenagers or people that buy into a trivial narrative as explanations for complex, multidimensional issues (republicans, may be?… but I digress…)It is also the case that most of the analysis can be applied in a complete inverted narrative. For example, one can say that a personal gmail account is primarily used for "connecting with others, seeing what they’re up to, and maybe even having some small, fun interactions that though not utilitarian are entertaining and help us connect with our own humanity" … at least that’s what I do in my personal gmail account, where I mostly trade jokes, etc. with family and friends… Simplifications like the one in the article, come from people that just don’t understand how easy it is for smart people to learn, adapt and compete.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 17, 2010 @ 3:25 am

  45. i like this 🙂

    Comment by Anonymous — July 17, 2010 @ 6:38 am

  46. Love this! We featured you at the very top of this week’s Hotelier Highlights — figured our readers would get a kick out of your insights. You can check it out, here:http://www.hotelmarketingstrategies.com/hotelier-highlights-july-10-16/Thanks for the fun read, and keep up the great work!Katie ClappEditor, Hotel Marketing Strategies

    Comment by swimkatieclapp — July 17, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

  47. Nice post, with a nice rebuttal by gregable. Overall, I do agree there are serious cultural differences between the various organizations, although maybe not quite as extreme as you describe. But that’s what makes it such a good read. Well done!

    Comment by sarnold42 — July 18, 2010 @ 12:01 am

  48. "Facebook is literally filled with master baiters" … Bet you worked hard to get that one in. No one really cares what you think — this is just simple minded logic that a sixth grader could figure out. Of course, each company serves it’s own purpose, and beyond that you’re griping over a beauty pageant. Fame is fleeting, we all know that.

    Comment by zeepickle — July 18, 2010 @ 3:45 am

  49. @alan jones Bingo^2.Not crazy about OP’s analogies, either. Given our omnivorous tastes, rapid population growth, and proven adaptability he likens us to pandas? Really? But he nearly invoked a more apt – if less adorable – creature, with his Eagles (‘we can check out of Hotel Facebook…but we can never leave’) song-allusion. Namely, la cucaracha.That lyric dimly echoes Black Flag’s ‘Roach Motel’, a ripoff of D-Con’s original trap. But minor chords stuffed with stale allegory & cheesy lyrics were a winning recipe for ’70s SoCal Soft Rock. It was bland, pretentious, and a popular success. Why? Refined products, cleverly packaged, satisfy most folks’ basic tastes (sweet + salt + fat + ego).Same with Facebook, et al — like Chuck E. Cheese or McDonald’s, gone virtual. Could some Googlers build or mash-up a strong competitor? Of course. Utilitarian Utopians tho they may be, it takes only a visionary or two, plus some cash. Back in ’59, at the Falcon’s debut, who knew stodgy old Ford had a ’64 Mustang in them?So, yeah – sure; Google can do it. Or maybe just throw money at a brilliant start-up team. But, as the OP (and history) suggests, the real question is whether they – I’m talking to you, Larry & Sergey – can keep hands-off long enough to take a serious bite out of Facebook’s pie. I say it’s not likely, but stranger things have happened.

    Comment by NotRahmEmanuel — July 18, 2010 @ 10:37 am

  50. Adam, thanks for crystalizing–and for reminding us of the facts of google’s poor social track record. They are in good company; it’s amazing how enterprise execs turn off Facebook et al at the office–and we even have Web 1.0 as an example!Have you read Robin Dunbar’s Gossip Grooming & the Evolution of Language? It would take you up another level to understand how right you are on this. I wrote a detailed review a few months ago: it decodes "human os" and, unlike Dunbar (Dunbar’s Number), it makes explicit connections to digital social networks. http://bit.ly/socgroom

    Comment by ghcj — July 18, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

  51. Gr8 article! Google social app wish list: maps, ‘googled’ button, scores, talking avatar, games (PAC-Man, EpicWin for To Do list, etc). ???

    Comment by mel_pucca — July 19, 2010 @ 3:42 am

  52. There’s also the human factor. As we ‘hang out’ and then leave these social apps through the years we find what’s useful in them and discard the rest. They are becoming more and more of a useful part of our lives, a utility. In that sense Google is poised well.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 19, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

  53. "Master Baiters" and "blue balls" aside, Google developed under the assumption that internet users are introverted. As such, their apps are introverted, designed to help the individual accomplish a goal alone. Twitter and Facebook operate under the assumption that these same introverts would like to operate in an extroverted fashion. As such, apps developed that allow even the most introverted to interact with people – slowly, on their own terms. Google will need to change its entire culture to make social media work. I don’t see that happening.

    Comment by billjonesjr — July 22, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

  54. Interestingly Orkut is a major success here in Brazil. Maybe Brazilians don’t need as much bait to be entrapped?

    Comment by ricardodirani — July 29, 2010 @ 8:57 pm

  55. What a fantastic analysis, Google should hire you as their Head of Social instead. As far as I known, they almost hire and respect people, which come from engineer background. This creates fabulous & useful products yet of course can’t innovate a "just-for-fun" thing like Facebook. Btw, Google Wave is another good demonstration for your point of view. But we can’t say that is their failure, simplify they are born to make search-engine product, and Mark was born to create a huge social network.

    Comment by infantiablue — August 26, 2010 @ 7:27 am

  56. Nice writing, keen observation – though I resent the comparison of Google with Microsoft. ;p

    Comment by inhahe2 — August 27, 2010 @ 3:19 am

  57. I have visit lot of post.Yours is the best one .Thank you for your nice comments.<a href="http://www.friends-hood.com">microblogging-sites</a&gt;

    Comment by Anonymous — August 30, 2010 @ 6:53 am

  58. Good article. But Google isnt all that bad either. Orkut was pretty good, though not as good looking as FB.

    Comment by googleappsbuzz — September 1, 2010 @ 2:15 pm

  59. Best way is jo find out what the market is like and if there is enough traffic and money for you to take a slice of the action. You might find that specific niche that will give you thousands of clicks every month.<a href="http://takboleh.com/">network</a&gt;

    Comment by Anonymous — September 4, 2010 @ 9:50 am

  60. i’ve been reading and re-reading this since the day you posted it. ya got my vote for article of the year, hands down.

    Comment by Anonymous — September 15, 2010 @ 7:14 am

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