New Google CEO Larry Page’s first move was to tie every single fulltime Google employee’s 2011 bonus to the success or failure of Google’s overall social strategy this year.Page’s message was clear: Google is at war with Facebook.
Google has to be.
Increasingly, people are finding things to consume and to buy on the Internet in their Facebook and Twitter streams before they ever get a chance to search for them on Google.
Meanwhile, the other move Page made in his first week was to make the whole company look more like Android and YouTube.
Android and YouTube have two things in common: Both were acquisitions and both were left to run on their own after they were acquired.
So here’s what we think all that means: Google is at war with Facebook, and Page is ready to buy other companies for ammunition.
Google has always been acquisitive, but we think Page being in charge makes it more likely big deals will happen.
For one, Page seems willing to spend big amounts of money. On his first day in office, he made all kinds of patent lawsuits go away by offering to write one $900 million check.
For another, Page’s re-org makes Google a much more friendly place for in-coming entrepreneurs who don’t want to stop running their businesses.
So, who will Page buy?
Google just launched +1. It's basically a Google-branded 're-tweet' or 'like' button.
The first thing +1 will likely do is help Google improve it search results. But after that, Google could take a user's incoming stream of +1s and send them to all that user's friends -- kind of like the way Facebook sends a user's 'likes' to that user's friends' 'News Feeds.'
Google wants to create that kind of stream because increasingly, people are finding things on the Internet in their Facebook and Twitter streams BEFORE they ever get a chance to search for them on Google.
To make +1 work, though, Google needs to seed it with a 'social graph.' Facebook has one, but it's not for sale and Google couldn't buy it anyway.
Twitter has a much smaller one, and it might be Google's best bet.
It might be a better fit too: Twitter is less about sharing social information and more about sharing content -- like Google.
Twitter has long been unwilling to sell to Google, but things are different now. For one, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is a professional CEO, not a founder. He could be bought. For another, we keep hearing that company is a bit of a mess right now -- from the product organisation all the way up to the board. If Page comes calling with $7 billion, Twitter is his.
Google would buy Foursquare because it has a real and growing 'social graph' -- though it's still very small -- and because it would be simple to have Google's massive sales force start selling 'deals near you' coupons for Foursquare users.
Foursquare doesn't help Google with the whole people-are-finding-Web-content-before-searching problem, though.
By the way, everyone thinks Dennis Crowley won't sell to Google because he sold his first company, Dodgeball, to Google and Google killed it a couple years later.
Crowley HAD to sell Dodgeball back then because he couldn't find VC. These days, Crowleys knows that Google is one of the few companies out there that would write a $1 billion check. So he's not ignoring the Google option -- especially since Page seems willing to let entrepreneurs run their own businesses under the Google umbrella.
Quora cofounders Adam D'Angelo and Charlie Cheever helped Mark Zuckerberg build Facebook.
It shows. The Quora 'feed' has all the important features from Facebook's 'news feed.' It tells users what to click on to stay active.
D'Angelo and Cheever's pedigree alone might be enough for Page to hand them a couple billion. It helps that Quora could also have a nice business being the for-profit Wikipedia someday.
Problem is, D'Angelo and Cheever are already worth hundreds of millions of dollars. They are in it for the long haul unless Google makes an offer so huge that Quora's investors demand a sale.
We can imagine Google picking up Path, a mobile photo-sharing social network, just to get its hands on cofounder Dave Morin, who spent a while running Facebook's developer relations organisation.
This would not be a mega-deal, however.
Instagram is another mobile social network for photo-sharing (which is what Facebook is too, if you stop an think about it). The big difference between Instagram and Path is that Instagram is growing much faster.
It launched in early fall 2010 and had 1.75 million registered users by December.
Instagram cofounder Mike Krieger is an ex-Googler, by the way.
Google VP Marissa Mayer started testing Instagram over the weekend.
If Google doesn't want to spend billions buying Twitter, it could spend a hundred or million or so to pickup UberMedia.
Bill Gross's latest startup owns a whole bunch of Twitter clients and is in the process of buying Iain Dodsworth's popular client TweetDeck.
With those clients in hand, Google could conceivably, launch a Twitter rival.
Once upon a time, Gowalla was a rival to Foursquare.
That's too bad because the product is actually fine. Going to Google in an acqui-hire would be a nice soft-landing for cofounder Josh Williams and friends.
If Tumblr could firm up its social graph by getting it so that its increasingly huge userbase starts signing into things all over the Internet as Tumblr users, and not Facebook users, it could become something very interesting company for Google to look at.
Already, Tumblr has a 'feed' going -- the kind of place where people are starting to find things to read and buy on the Internet before needing to Google search.
LinkedIn has tried very hard to become more like Facebook in recent months.
It's got its own 'like' button, called 'InShares,' and when you log-in, you see a News Feed-like stream of content and things to click on. LinkedIn has already filled an S-1 to go public, but that doesn't mean Google couldn't step in with a $2 billion check right now.
If Google bought LinkedIn, we'd be interested to see if it stuck with the whole 'business network' thing, or just ditched it and went for the consumer market. LinkedIn has to be a business network now because it depends on recruiters for revenue. But in Google, it would have plenty of money to go after a bigger market as the social-network-for-adults or something.