Battle of the giants to control social networking
By Andrej Sokolow Jul 17, 2011, 8:09 GMT
Berlin - A battle for the top position in internet business has broken out as rival alliances are going face-to-face with one another. The alliance of Facebook, Microsoft, Nokia and Skype has joined forces against Internet giant Google, which has allied itself with Apple and microblogging service Twitter.
The battleground is online services which network users with one another. The current king of this 'social internet' is Facebook, but Google is building up a challenge in the form of its own online network Google+.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is not too worried as he casually mentioned that Facebook has passed 750 million users during the introduction of Facebook's latest product - video calling with Skype. 'We did not report 750 million because we do not believe it is the metric,' said Zuckerberg. He added that in the future you will not base things on who has the most users but on what you can do with the services.
Zuckerberg also said there is no doubt that social networks have become a part of people's lives. One just has to look at the volume of content that an average Facebook user shares over the internet, which has been doubling every year.
Zuckerberg mapped out his vision years ago with Facebook as a 'social class' running through the entire life of its members. Communication, meeting friends, hobbies, film or restaurant recommendations, fashion taste - all of those are issues which people share with one another. And they need a community, which the internet provides.
The 26-year-old brushed up against privacy advocates and some of his own customers with his second assumption - that people want to make public even more private information. He has learned to be more patient. One function showing purchases made by a user was quickly stopped after an outcry by Facebook members. Since then, Facebook users have a myriad of control settings to keep their privacy. And Facebook users are adding more and more pictures, videos and private information about their daily lives.
The yield of this social boom is data. Mountains of information about what interests people, what they like, with whom they are communicating, where they like to go. Data is what turned Google into an internet giant - the company still makes billions with advertisements tailored to the search requests of its users.
Information is the fuel needed to be successful in the internet business. Google boss Eric Schmidt appealed to Google users that if they supplied more information the search engine giant can offer better search results. But more and more of the valuable user data is landing in the silos of Facebook. And the online network is keeping a lid on it, under the watchful eye of privacy advocates.
After all, the members were promised that the information would not be shared with others. An anonymous evaluation of the information would be a gold-mine for advertising companies who could approach a specific target group with their advertising.
Google has come up with an alternative to Facebook with Google+ and promise a better control of privacy. Users can sort their friends into different 'circles' - friends, relatives, acquaintances, work colleagues - and then limit who can see their photos and messages.
This is Google's first attempt to combine all of its services in a 'social network' - bringing together YouTube with the Picasa photo service and translation function Google Translate among others. All that fuelled by the technical power of Google computer centres and flanked by Android as a leading smartphone operating system.
But Google is arriving quite late to the social networking party. Facebook has a pretty big head start with 750 million users.