How Will Google Compete With Facebook Photos?

Facebook Sniper IconGoogle still isn’t revealing much about the “Facebook killer”, currently titled “Google Me”, however the latest details suggest that the company is aiming to create a social layer across all their products, including search. There will clearly be a number of components that contribute to this new social layer, however it’s clear that photos and videos will play an important role.

While it hasn’t been officially stated by Google executives, Facebook has been increasing the features on Facebook photos over the past few months at a furious pace, most likely because Google is looking at providing their own social photo discovery service. Why would they focus so heavily on Photos? Well, photos are Facebook’s killer app. Next to games (an arsenal which Google is also building up as they’ve acquired numerous game startups in the social space), Photos are by far Facebook’s largest source of engagement.

Between tagging and the feed exposure, photos account for the largest percentage of Facebook users’ time on site. While video is also increasing, photos were responsible for most of Facebook’s initial growth. In fact Facebook Photos now has more market share than all the competitors combined (including Google-owned Picasa). Google also clearly has another massive weapon in their arsenal: YouTube. The video site is by far the most popular of all video sites in the world.

YouTube is so popular that it ranks just behind Facebook in Alexa’s ranking of the most popular online sites. YouTube is also a relatively social experience to begin with, however there is most definitely plenty of room to grow. While Eric Schmidt would like Facebook to be enable them to access the social graph in the same way that Facebook has access to Gmail contacts (as stated in this video), it’s highly doubtful that Facebook will do this.

As such, Google will attempt to build an overarching social layer into all of their products and provide access for others (developers) to publish to that layer. So how would Google take on Facebook Photos? Imagine if next time you searched for something, not only did it show you relevant social search results, but it also showed you that some of your friends recently updated their photos. Suddenly users would be discovering information about their friends outside of Facebook.

One key point to consider is that Google doesn’t actually need Picasa to succeed as long as all of Facebook’s competing photos sites are willing to integrate into Google’s new social layer. Given that Google can ensure the other online photo providers with receive additional traffic, there’s no doubt that they will all jump on board. Google will also most likely prominently feature their social stream in all products, giving it the greatest opportunity to succeed.

The resulting social layer, “Google Me”, should be able to at the least make Facebook a bit concerned. Whether or not Google’s amalgamation of photo services will be able to sufficiently compete with Facebook is unknown, however it’s the company’s only shot.