Who's Not Evil Now? Facebook's Social Connections vs Google's Hyperlinks
The gauntlet was officially laid down when Mark Zuckerberg announced at his F8 Developers Conference that "going forward social connections are going to be equally as important as hyperlinks were for the Web previously." While Google's brain-trust has been ingenious in perfecting their algorithms over the years, where Facebook may have a leg up in the weeks and months ahead is "stickiness." To fracture an old axiom, "you can lead a horse to link, but you can't get always get him to click-thru." Zuckerberg, on the other hand, thinks his 400 million horses will be prompted by his Open Graph to do both.
Google's informal corporate motto "Don't be evil" was said to recognize that large corporations often maximize short-term profits with actions that destroy long-term brand image and competitive position. To counter that tact, Google instilled a corporate culture that distanced itself from entities that lacked a moral compass. However, when Google declared its self-censorship move to China in 2006, this principle appeared compromised.
While Facebook has tried to define itself as a wholesome upstanding privately-run company headed up by a 26 year-old genius, (even though slightly tarnished by some negative baggage held over from his dormitory origins) - the company was never considered evil by the 400 million that eventually lined up to drink from same trough.
However there are similarities that causes wonder to wonder. Both companies are keenly attached to advertising models that have become cash cows and both companies want to dominate the Web. Some view Facebook as the 'new sheriff in town'. Some say they want to be the 'fabric of the Web.'
But what is clear is that lines are beginning to be drawn in the sand. According to TechCrunch's Mike Butcher, "the result is that lots of geeks are considering leaving Facebook, and perhaps even more interestingly, veritable droves of Google software engineers are among them."
In an unprecedented move, Matt Cutts who heads up Google's Webspam team announced he was deactivating his Facebook account in a tweet.
The alleged reason for such a drastic action is based on the "Google Gaggle" believing that Facebook, by default will now be opting you in to allowing third party sites like Yelp to 'personalize' a user's experience. While listening to Zuckerberg's keynote address myself, I don't remember hearing him use the term "automatically opting in."
Several reports have indicated otherwise. One of which is Bobbi L. Newman's Librarian of the Day blog which noted when she read the fine print it appeared that Facebook was making "opt-in" assumptions on the users' behalf. So much so, that when she finally found the button to "uncheck," she received the following conciliatory message from Facebook stating "how sad and lonely her Internet experience would be without 'instant personalization." (this coercive tactic alone is somewhat demeaning in its approach).
Pete Cashmore swung by the Bloomberg studios recently to discuss what’s happening in technology, the debate between open vs. closed web, and Facebook’s new Open Graph initiative and how it could actually hurt Google .
So, I ask the question - Who's not evil now? This post is the third part of a trilogy of stories on Facebook reinventing themselves with the launch of their new Open Graph. The other two posts detail their desire to shift their advertising model into high gear, and to establish their own currency called Facebook Credits - all with the ultimate goal of ruling the online roost, we know as the Internet. Google was King of Web town for the last ten years. Will Facebook usurp their authority and steal the crown for the next decade?
If greed, power or ego are the motivating factors, will Facebook be 'more' or 'less' not evil than Google? In an age of location-based services, who has the real moral compass to answer that question?