Is the Facebook v Google battle about to get interesting?

Google vs Facebook imageThis weekend the rumour mill went into overdrive at SxSW as Google once again refused to comment on their plans to take on Facebook with a social product. A Google spokesperson told The Next Web blog “We do not speculate on rumor and speculation”.

But despite the lack of any firm information it’s looking more and more likely that a big announcement will happen this year’s I/O developers’ conference in May.  Back in September Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt confirmed that a “social layer” was coming to all of their products  and we’ve seen this start to materialise as search results become more social and location based reviews are added to Google Maps.

We at the Levels are very excited by the possibility to this launch if the rumours are correct.  It’s thought that the product will be called Google Circles and that it is being developed in line with the thoughts of the ex-Google social technology researcher Paul Adams.

In a number of essays and presentations Adams says that what’s wrong with Facebook and many of the other social networks is that there’s no context given to your contacts and the information you publish.  We all operate in life with many different personas; work, friends,parent etc but when it comes to social networking all of our friends are lumped into one bucket making it impossible to target messages and communication to different social groups.   If Google find a solution to this, letting us publish and share with our different Circles of friends it will be a major step forward both in terms of use but also the privacy of information held within social environments.

After the failure of Buzz and Wave Google must be hoping that this will be third time lucky for them.  They need to crack the nut primarily in order to maintain their advertising revenues but we at The Levels would like to see an alternative to Facebook that’s driven by respect for privacy and a greater understanding of the complexity of human relationships.

What has been Facebook’s response to this? Well Mr Adams now works for them!

To read the article at The Next Web http://thenextweb.com/google/2011/03/11/google-reportedly-to-launch-google-me-in-may/

For Paul Adams presentation The Real Life Social Network go to http://www.slideshare.net/padday/the-real-life-social-network-v2

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“This time it’s different” say Facebook as they acquire Beluga

Beluga corporate logoNormally when Faceboook acquire a start up they make you can offer you can’t refuse, shut you down and strip you of all your intellectual assets.  Highly effective but just a tad on the brutal side.

So, when news of their acquisition of Beluga (belugapods.com) was broken by the boys over at TechCrunch we assumed it would be just another slash and burn job.  But we were wrong.  Facebook have explicitly stated that this won’t be the case and in an open letter on the Belgua website state. “Beluga and Facebook are committed to create new and better ways to communicate and share group experiences.”

Beluga is a free mobile group messaging service so a little bit like Foursquare in that you can share your location, but just (& only) with your friends.   You can also share photos, updates etc with the group but again, completely privately.  It’s made up of a team of three bright young things who learnt their craft at Google and created a bit of a feeding frenzy when they went out into the market looking for angel funding but as we now know Facebook got there first.

So, what’s the future for Beluga?   The privacy of their users, which is so closely guarded seems a little at odds with the Facebook mantra of give us your data and we’ll sell it, but other than that this seems like a perfect fit.

Could it be that this is Facebook tacitly admitting that there are some users out there who aren’t prepared to share their life with the world?  Could this be their first move in building an alternative service where privacy is key?  We’ll wait to find out.

To read the original TechCrunch article http://techcrunch.com/2011/03/01/facebook-beluga/

Blogging falls away in the US as teens turn increasingly to Facebook and Twitter

What have you done with your life imageIn the UK we love to blog, but we’re also (horribly) aware that for the majority of time no one’s bothering to read our daily out-pouring on what ever subject’s close to our heart.  Does it matter that on one cares?  Is a blog just the modern day equivalent of “Dear Diary”? It would seem that in the US  it’s not just enough to express yourself any-more you need an audience to cheer you on.

The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Centre found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now only 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs.  Kids who used to blog gave various reasons for why they’ve stopped including lack of time, lack of inspiration and lack of readership.  But crucially, they also said that they’ve got no need to blog now that all of their friends are on Facebook.

But is it the case that we’re losing our creativity or that we’re just changing the way we publish our inner most thoughts?  You could make the argument both ways.  We could say that Twitter is restrictive at only 140 characters and that Facebook’s breeding a generation of kids with little to no attention span who’s only ability to critique what they read is to “like” it.

On the other side of the argument Twitter, Facebook et al are giving teenagers the tools to discover their own voice, to pontificate on the issues that are important to them and share these thoughts with their friends and families.

Lee Rainie, director of the Internet and American Life Project, says that blogging is not so much dying as moving with the times.

“The act of telling your story and sharing part of your life with somebody is alive and well — even more so than at the dawn of blogging,” Mr. Rainie said. “It’s just morphing onto other platforms.”

This change in behaviour can be seen in the traffic and users on the established blogging platforms. Blogger, (owned by Google) saw a 2% year on year decline in traffic in the US alone.

So, here are The Levels what do we think?  We’ll, we could get all high and mighty and say that Facebook killed the blogging star that we’re turning into a society that can’t construct a diary entry let alone an essay or god forbid a novel.  But, we actually think that teens are the lucky ones.  They can speak to the masses via their Twitter account, share their passions, their disappointments and their joys and most importantly find their voice.

Read the full report at http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Generations-2010.aspx