A tweet by Digg CEO Kevin Rose that he has since deleted (“Ok, umm, huge rumor: Google to launch facebook competitor very soon ‘Google Me’, very credible source”) and from comments on Quora from former Facebook CTO and Quora founder Adam D’Angelo. D’Angelo wrote that he had heard from reliable sources that Google has made the project a high priority. Google has made no secret that it’s very focused on becoming more social. So far, its attempts to create social networks have not met with much success. Google Buzz, which it launched earlier this year, has not taken off. Its social network Orkut, which has been around since 2004, is popular in Brazil but reaches only 2% of Internet users.
It’s unlikely that Google is preparing to roll out a Facebook clone. Whereas Facebook is basically a universe unto itself, Google emphasizes openness. A Google service that runs on open standards and with an open ID system, i.e., letting users punch in one password on multiple sites, take their personal data with them when they leave a network or maintain the same profile on multiple services, could give Facebook a run for its money.
The stakes are high: Facebook is speeding ahead, gathering tons of data through its recently launched “Like” feature. “Like” buttons on tens of thousands of websites yield invaluable information about the preferences of its users (and their friends), which could ultimately help Facebook develop a more personalized method of ranking Web pages and of targeting advertising. It’s because of this that Google is intensely interested in social media.
Another project which recently gained steam (and a lot of seed money) is Diaspora. One month into development and Diaspora current implementations include GPG encryption, scraping Twitter and Flickr, awesome design aesthetics, and the initial stages of connection infrastructure (“friending” other Diaspora instances). Websockets are already in the Diaspora core, and any Diaspora plugins will be able to have rapid two-way functionality, (think chat, games etc) almost effortlessly! Diaspora aims to be for social networking what OpenID wants to be for user authentication… an end-to-end open system that can even be personally hosted. In other words, it will take social networking out of the walled garden of Facebook (or whatever Google creates) and placing control of your content into your own hands. You can view their 1 month of development demo here: