Social Search Battle: Google Vs Facebook

Google has been attempting to compete with Facebook and the social market by attempting develop their social identity. With the releases of OpenSocial Widgets, iGoogle, Social Gadgets for iGoogle widgets and their connections of Google accounts to Youtube, Blogspot and others, the goal of a unified Google identity is certainly a feasible competitor to a unified Facebook identity. Google recently announced Google Social Search, and is attempting to make another move on the social space.

Google Social Search is an optional add-on for your regular Google Search (it’s activated through the “Labs” option for now) that works by highlighting your social contacts’ published articles, blogs and tweets when you do a search. For instance, if you were searching for “Social Games”, typically you’d get a plethora of extremely popular sites with great SEO, and while the content could certainly be relevant, sometimes you may be looking for something more closely related to you. With Google Social Search, a new heading will appear at the bottom of the first page, called “Results from people in your social circle”, and listed under there will be all the tweets, blogs, articles and websites that have been published by people in your social circle.

What is a social circle, you ask? The blog post quotes: “The way we do it is by building a social circle of your friends and contacts using the connections linked from your public Google profile, such as the people you’re following on Twitter or FriendFeed.” They also import your social circle from your Google Reader followed sites, Picasa photo albums and Yahoo’s Flickr accounts.

So with all this innovation, I still find myself wondering how they are going to compete with Facebook. I list here 5 observations about the differences between Google Social Search and Facebook Search.


Facebook highlights applications, and doesn’t give me clear rationale about why I’m seeing certain results. My search for “life” returned “Causes” as its first result with no reason. In Google’s Social Search, the ten results, which were all blogs of contacts of mine, had the word “life” clearly bolded in the excerpt of the blog.


The Google search did not provide me with any photos, but we can see that Picasa is apparently supported, with Name Tags being a recent feature. Facebook did provide photos in its “Posts by Friends” section, highlighting photos that had the word “life” tagged in the comment or caption.


This is an area where we can see that Facebook is emulating Google in style, but not substance. The ads along the right side of the Facebook “Posts by Friends” section were nearly identical in positioning to the Google ones, but the Facebook ads are using small square images. The problem was that while Google returned one ad related to the word “life”, Facebook just had a series of random advertisements related to sake, games and education (that may be closer to “life” than I’d like to imagine, though).


Facebook’s “Posts by Friends” sorting options were to show the different types of posts, status updates, links, etc. I could also filter by location, using city or town. Google offered [its plethora of sorting options, from time-based, to related searchs, to sorting by poster. Clearly, if the Google network had as much content, I’d find my desired content faster.


This is subjective, but for me, the amount of social information available at Facebook dwarfes what was available on my Google Social Circle. This is not a problem with the system, but at the end of the day, if I need to find something related to my social circle, Facebook is still the way to go at this point. We’ll see how things develop. Google is still working to add Facebook to the results, but the lack of publicly available Facebook info prevents this. If the two accounts were to merge, it would be possible, but I don’t think anyone sees that happening soon!