Well it seems the next major technology war has kicked off on the web. Google has opened up its beta social service to all and sundry. At the same time Facebook have had another major face lift and announced their intentions to become a content hub for the Internet.
For me Facebook's latest move is eerily familiar of the early days of the web when everyone was vying to be the default web portal in the browser. It didn't work back then and companies like Yahoo have never really recovered from failing in the land grab. Back then everyone underestimated the demand for search that just worked and when Google offered something that broadly gave you relevant results the curated model of the web died.
However Facebook have a massive advantage now having captured 750m users who visit their site on a regular basis. They didn't come to Facebook to find cool places on the internet but to interact with their friends. Facebook didn't invent social networking but they certainly demonstrated that executed properly it was something that lots of people wanted. So far people have been very relaxed about Facebook's access to all that valuable social information and its use in advertising. Frankly any company that launches any sort of consumer product these days has to have some sort of strategy about how they will interact with Facebook.
Google have know that "social" is going to be a big thing for some time now. They have had several attempts to capture a segment of the market and Google+ is their most serious contender to the space so far. Their reasons for running the service are much like Facebook's although their principle advantage is not having to worry about how to monetise the service yet. Google's history has very much been developing ideas and seeing if they become popular before working out how to monetise it. Meanwhile it's a dangerous time for Facebook as they move towards an IPO where their long-term investors will be looking to cash-out on their investment. If Facebook start hemorrhaging users to alternatives its market value will literally disappear before the investors eyes. In the web-based world where a competitor is literally a click away the last thing they want to do is repeat the experience of MySpace. This would be especially ironic as Facebook was one of the major reasons MySpace went the way it did.
Who will ultimately "win" is an exercise in futurology that is a futile as predicting anything related to the fast changing world of the internet. I personally can't wait to move away from Facebook and to a service that gives me more control over my data. For now that is Google+ but it's by no means certain that's where it will stay. However one thing I'm sure of is the process of taking my data from Google and moving somewhere else will be a lot easier than the exercise has been from Facebook. Coincidentally it's probably the main reason why I'll be staying with Google for the time-being.
What do you think of these latest moves? Do you care who "wins" or what the services turn into? Or is the age of social networking the latest in a long line of internet fads that has already peaked?