Buried in Steven Levy’s book on Google, “In The Plex,” is a revealing quote from a Googler on its approach to the social space.”It’s a good thing Google is putting weight behind social networking, but it’s reactive self-interest, not from a place of idealism,” says an anonymous Googler described as a “key team member” by Levy. This Googler added, “It’s not Google at its best, which is truly, truly pioneering. Whereas this thing is clearly more of a reaction to Facebook.”
Levy says Google’s latest effort to thwart Facebook’s growing dominance of the web, +1, is “strategic, even conventional” in comparison to Google’s other products.
Other products were built because Google thought it could do them better, or it wanted to build them — Maps, email, mobile phone operating systems, web browsers, etc. Social seems to be done because Google thinks it has to do it to stay even with Facebook.
Google’s feelings towards social may have been encapsulated in a quote from the number two executive in charge of search, Amit Singhal. He said, “Social is just one signal. It’s a tiny signal.”