Google Is “Super Nervous” About Facebook, Uses This Painting As Inspiration

Emerald Sea Google +1 inspiration
Emerald Sea, an 1878 painting by Albert Bierstadt that Google used as inspiration for beating Facebook.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has downplayed the threat from Facebook in interviews, pointing to Microsoft’s Bing search engine as a much bigger threat.But internally it’s another story.

Last year, Google engineer Urs Holzle — who was one of Google’s first 10 employees — sent around an urgent internal memo warning that Google would be crushed if it didn’t figure out its social strategy.

The team named their social project “Emerald Sea” after this painting of a wave knocking a ship over — Google was the ship — and then recreated that painting outside the elevators where they worked.

That’s according to “In the Plex,” a forthcoming book about Google by Steven Levy, which was reviewed in the New York Times this morning.

Emerald Sea eventually turned into +1, the social search service that Google unveiled on Wednesday. It’s mainly about improving search for now, but Google could eventually use it for other social products — like creating a news stream of relevant information based on what users have recommended to their friends, sort of like the Facebook news feed or Twitter stream.

See also: Google Has Been Trying — And Failing — To Beat Facebook In Social For Years