Google's march toward social networking

Amid some fits, starts, and failures, the search giant keeps pushing through social networking services

Google this week confirmed its acquisition of online entertainment company Slide. The purchase rehashed speculation that the search giant is interested in working its way into social media, possibly with a game-centered service called "Google Me."

Although there isn't any word on specific product details David Glazer, engineering director at Google confirms the company will invest more effort to make its services more "socially aware" in a recent blog post.

This shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone. Google has repeatedly expressed interest in the past year, starting with the announcement of Google Wave at the 2009 I/O Developer Conference.

If Google plans to dethrone Facebook (or at least become a contender in the world of social media) it needs to learn a few things from its past social endeavors, most of which haven't ended so well. However, it's clear that Google is keeping at this mission.

Here's a quick recap of Google's social media moves in 2010:

February 8: The Wall Street Journal reports Google prepared to unveil a social component to Gmail that would display a stream of "media and status updates" within the web interface.

February 9: Google introduces its social networking tool called Google Buzz and says it will be available to all Gmail users within a week.

February 10: Privacy concerns are raised when it is discovered that Google Buzz compiles a list of the Gmail contacts that users most frequently contact and makes it public.

February 15: Google modifies Buzz to appease privacy concerns. It also adds the option to hide Buzz or shut it off completely.

February 18: Google faces a class-action lawsuit over Google Buzz for allegedly violating the 1984 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which was intended to protect individuals against companies that compromise the confidentiality of a computer.

May 11: GigaOm reports that Google hires an executive recruiting agency to find a "Head of Social." Gigom claims to have a copy of the recruiting letter and says the following is from the job description:

"This is a new and very strategic position, as Google knows it is late on this front and is appropriately humble about it. In Google's view, conceptually, there are two ways to tackle social, each impacting who may be successful in this senior post: 1) building an innovative offering specifically in this area; or 2) developing the capability and integrating social into Google's existing portfolio."

June 29: Digg co-founder Kevin Rose posts a tweet that a "very credible" source said Google would be launching a Facebook competitor, called Google Me "very soon."

July 5: Matt Brittin, Google's UK chief executive, doesn't comment on or deny the "Google Me" rumors in an interview with The Telegraph. He also says there is room for more than one giant in the world of social networking: "Facebook is an absolute phenomenon but there are other social networks which are successful too. We've got Orkut, which is fantastically successful in India and Brazil."

July 10: TechCrunch reports that Google "secretly "invested $100 to $200 million in Zynga, the company that created Farmville and a slew of other popular games on Facebook.

TechCrunch says Zynga will be part of a service called Google Games, which will launch later this year.

July 28: The Wall Street Journal reports online game developers Playdom, Electronic Arts, Playfish and Zynga are reported to be in talks with Google. According to the WSJ, people briefed on the matter said that games would be part of a broader social-networking initiative by Google.

August 4: Google's Urs Hölzle says the company will cease development on Google Wave as a standalone project.

August 6: Google confirms acquisition of online entertainment company Slide.

Tags searchGoogleinternetsocial networksFacebooksearch engines

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Paul Suarez

PC World (US online)

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