July 13, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Google's antisocial downside

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In the next month or two, Hussain said the company will infuse more networking features into MSN Spaces and its social-network brand, Windows Live Spaces. With the tool, people will be able to see lists of friends on their blogs or IM windows, and then, via an upcoming product called "Friends Explorer," use the cursor to peruse friends of friends.

Arnold, the author, said social software is ultimately a shortcut for MSN in the search race because it provides the software giant with easy markers for spidering the Web and producing relevant results.

"Microsoft's looking...to do something Google's not doing aggressively," Arnold said.

"Google would be smart to start thinking of social networks as infrastructure for other applications on their network as Yahoo has done."
--David Hornik, venture capitalist

Google introduced Orkut in January 2004 as the sideline project of one of its engineers, Orkut Buyukkokten. Like most of the company's new products, Google's Orkut enjoyed enormous buzz early on, thanks to an invitation-only policy that included many Silicon Valley muckety-mucks as community members. But since then, Orkut hasn't grown significantly in the United States compared with the speedy trajectory of other social networks like MySpace.

Most of Orkut's following comes from Portuguese-speaking countries, and Google has encountered problems with the Brazilian government for member content promoting gang violence in that country.

In May, Orkut had 210,000 visitors in the United States, up 85 percent from the year earlier, according to ComScore.

Worldwide, Orkut enjoyed more popularity. It ranked fifth in May by ComScore's measure, more than doubling its visitors for the year to 33.7 million. In contrast, MSN Spaces doubled its visitors to 101 million, and MySpace grew 250 percent to 74 million, according to ComScore.

In contrast, Yahoo's 360 amassed nearly 5 million visitors in May since launching in March 2005. Microsoft's MSN Spaces drew 9.6 million visitors, up more than 200 percent in that same period. And MySpace attracted 51.4 million visitors, up 230 percent year over year.

Social networking demands attention not only for its expanding influence among Web surfers, but also because sites like MySpace are encroaching on the amount of search traffic on the Internet--a key driver of the $14 billion online advertising business.

In May, MySpace for the first time joined the ranks of top search sites counted by ComScore Media Metrix, a New York-based measurement firm. In June, it continued to hold the sixth slot, garnering about 53 million searches, behind No 1. Google, followed by, in order of ranking: Yahoo, MSN, AOL and Ask, according to ComScore. To be sure, it reaches only a small fraction of the market versus Google's 43 percent reach, but its newly held recognition could mean that social networks are the portal of the future, investors say.

This could indicate that Google needs to cultivate its own social aspirations quickly in order to protect its multibillion-dollar advertising business.

"Google was early to the pure-play social network party, which was certainly smart at the time," said David Hornik, a venture capitalist at August Capital. "But social networking has evolved into an important underpinning of other key experiences, such as photo sharing with Flickr or blogging with Vox," a new personal blogging service.

"Google would be smart to start thinking of social networks as infrastructure for other applications on their network as Yahoo has done," Hornik added.

Robert Goldberg, an early stage venture capitalist at Ridgelift Ventures, doubts Google will pay much attention to social networking, and will instead opt to focus on advertising technologies and services such as Google CheckOut, the company's recently launched payment service.

"There are a few things that Google's going to get deadly serious about," said Goldberg, "but social networking is not one of them."

CNET News.com's Elinor Mills contributed to this report.

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15 comments

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i orkut
I orkut everyday!
Posted by baswwe (299 comments )
Reply Link Flag
PORTUGUESE
It is not portugese is PORTUGUESE. Damm it.
It is amazing how u americans like to underestimate everyone is not american. "Orkut is popular in countries of portugese language" ********, orkut is famous in Brazil. FULL STOP. Portugal has only 0,45% of users, againsta 67% of brazilians. Yet, google does not make money on it because they do not want it.
Posted by caxq (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Tomato-Tomatoe
Lets call the whole thing off.
Posted by msims (66 comments )
Link Flag
Get a grip, nobody used spellchecker
Get a grip, nobody used spellchecker. And keep your anti-American prejudices to yourself. South Americans should start producing something useful besides banana republics, political corruption, and drugs.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Link Flag
GOOG is smart to avoid...
...putting much effort into creating a big & popular global social networking site. As that firm has witnessed since the time of their purchase of ORKUT, the legal liability exposure vis mature content makes it an inane investment for them to fund with anything more than tipping money. The ad revenues war discussed in the article is not over Social Networking Search Utilisation. The war is over becoming your toolbar of choice ~ just ask any exec at Google, Microsoft or Yahoo.
Posted by i_made_this (302 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google is right to avoid it.
First of all, MySpace is built on top of some of the sloppiest, slow and broken code I've ever encountered.

Second, this social networking thing is a fad. My 2 cents anyway.
Posted by Bob_Barker (167 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google IS into social networking -- the Google way
Google is in fact highly vested in social networking, but they're going to do it right. They recently made a big push into this with their Google Co-op initiative. See my post on the subject for more: <a href="http://dave.notik.com/node/21">http://dave.notik.com/node/21</a>.
Posted by DavidNotik (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Repeat after me.
We are borg...
Posted by waynehapp (52 comments )
Link Flag
Surprised At Google
The main advantage for Google in social networking is that special interest groups who identify websites that are highly relevant add another layer of value to a Google search. Im surprised they havent pushed social networking harder and tried to integrate it into their search analysis.
Posted by rapa1 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Orkut's Failure
"Orkut hasn't grown significantly in the United States compared
with the speedy trajectory of other social networks like
MySpace."

That's because for all the blah-blah egalitarianism, anything that
starts from the top in Silicon Valley is almost doomed to failure
from the start.

Jobs as it almost right - he shouts down employees he doesn't
agree with, but he knows their names. Eric, What's his name, and
the other what's his name at Google couldn't care less what the
underlings say or what their names are. This is the culture that
leads to Orkut's failure.

Protest they might, but experience is more right than all the
sling-equipped 767s in the world.
Posted by Hep Cat (440 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A classic strategy
Google has enough money to follow a classic strategy. Through
everything against the wall and see what sticks. :-)
Posted by waynehapp (52 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A classic strategy
Google has enough money to follow a classic strategy. Through
everything against the wall and see what sticks. :-)
Posted by waynehapp (52 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A month ago...
MySpace was a fading flash in the pan being dogged by a pre-election Congressional witch-hunt and the general refusal of the company to make any siginifcant improvements to its site; outside of selling more ads. Now someone wants Google to turn into MySpace.

HUH? That's the worst idea ever. Well, maybe a bit of an overstatement, considering the long history of the internet....

Social Networking sites are on par with chat rooms in the fact that they are HOT now and in ten years they will be a dusty relic taken over by something else. MySpace is selling all flash, no pan.

People will always need to search the web and will always want cheap, web-based applications to do...Whatever clever little thing that needs to be done.

Google is smart in focusing on the basics of their business. They are also smart not trying to chase MySpace up the tree of doom too.

Hey, anyone remember FRIENDSTER? Thought not.
Posted by larrymadill (36 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google is on it's own path
There's a reason why Google does things the way it does and so far everything they put their focus on turns to gold. If they had put more money into Blogger, it could have been the MySpace we see now...but they didn't and I'm sure it was for a good reason. It's easy to look at a multi-billion dollar company and try to nit pick what they appear to be doing wrong, but they are a multi-billion dollar company for a reason.

MySpace is much like what AOL and many of the services before the Big Pop that were so popular and made money back then. The problem with services like MySpace is they are stuck as they are. They can add flare here and there and make it "cooler", but they didn't leave themselves a lot of room to actually upgrade their services.

Google tends to choose an area to focus on that they can continue to innovate, revolutionize, and eventually reinvent. Their mission statement is about information and what they deal with the best. The means to create and display information will always be changing, but there will always need to be a place to put it, keep track of it, and give people an easy way to find it.

If you want to look at an example of a successful company looking in too many of the wrong places, look at Microsoft and think how great Windows and Office could have been with all that extra focus. Cool new things will always be popping up here and there, but "cool" is relative. I'd rather put my money in innovation.
Posted by dem0 (24 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The grass isn't always greener
There's a reason why Google does things the way it does and so far everything they put their focus on turns to gold. If they had put more money into Blogger, it could have been the MySpace we see now...but they didn't and I'm sure it was for a good reason. It's easy to look at a multi-billion dollar company and try to nit pick what they appear to be doing wrong, but they are a multi-billion dollar company for a reason.

MySpace is much like what AOL and many of the services before the Big Pop that were so popular and made money back then. The problem with services like MySpace is they are stuck as they are. They can add flare here and there and make it "cooler", but they didn't leave themselves a lot of room to actually upgrade their services.

Google tends to choose an area to focus on that they can continue to innovate, revolutionize, and eventually reinvent. Their mission statement is about information and what they deal with the best. The means to create and display information will always be changing, but there will always need to be a place to put it, keep track of it, and give people an easy way to find it.

If you want to look at an example of a successful company looking in too many of the wrong places, look at Microsoft and think how great Windows and Office could have been with all that extra focus. There are kids using MySpace that were in K-3 when Windows XP was released... Cool new things will always be popping up here and there, but "cool" is relative.
Posted by dem0 (24 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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