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October 9, 2007

Google Buy Reveals Social Media Focus

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It’s a very good week for Google. First their stock broke the $600 a share barrier and then the announcement comes of their (very, very smart) acquisition of Jaiku. Huzzah!

In case you’re unfamiliar, Jaiku is the Finnish, superior version of Twitter. It’s a "life streaming" platform that rose to fame thanks to unique features (threaded conversations, easily group formation, etc) and a strong mobile platform. And according to Jaiku’s FAQ, that’s exactly what they’re going to help Google with – social activity streams and a mobile presence.

A lot of people are asking why Google didn’t buy Twitter. I haven’t spent much time reviewing either of the products (life streaming doesn’t so much appeal to me), but Jaiku does appear to be the smarter buy. The UI is better, the features are more sophisticated and Jaiku is doing a better job integrating mobile. Jaiku is everything Google wants to improve on. [Plus the name is cooler. --Susan]

People like Ross Mayfield suspect that Google picked up Jaiku as a way of competing with Facebook’s News Feed, adding it may also make a nice complement to Google Talk and even Orkut. For me, this is probably the heart of the acquisition.

Google has already said publicly that the way they’re going to compete with Facebook is by being even more open than Facebook is, and the acquisition of Jaiku does that. Once bundled with the rest of Google’s services, Jaiku will become a tool that users can use to quickly communicate with their list of contacts and let them know what they’re up to. This is very different from Facebook’s approach. Yes, the News Feed allows for instant updates, but only if your contacts are members of Facebook. A Google/Jaiku alliance would knock down that wall and give users considerably more freedom.

There’s also the Orkut angle. I was surprised to hear this, but Robert Scoble blogged that it’s Orkut that gets the most page views out of all the Google properties. Not Web search or Google Maps, but Orkut. How much longer before we see a revamped version of Google’s failed social networking attempt? A version that allows for life streaming, is integrated with mobile and is all about open communication?

Of course, the other reason Jaiku makes sense for Google is the mobile technology, technology that will undoubtedly end up on that phone Google is definitely not in the process of creating. As TechCrunch UK points out, Jaiku has already had success in this department, hailing a fairly sophisticated mobile application for the Symbian/Nokia platform, as well as a regular mobile system for non Nokia phones.

Unlike some of their other recent buys, this is a solid acquisition for Google. It’s also interesting because it gives us a glimpse as to where Google is headed. Clearly, they were taking applications like Twitter and Jaiku far more seriously than I was. Google thinks life stream content and increased openness will be their key to overtaking the social media space and their positioning themselves quite nicely right now.





3 responses to “Google Buy Reveals Social Media Focus”

  1. graywolf writes:

    I’m going to disagree, google had twitter before it was twitter when they bought Dodgball, and let it wither and die in the corner like the fruitcake Aunt Verna sends you around the holidays.

    Jiaku may have a cooler name but they have no critical customer base, I’m much happier with twitter and I’ve tried both even the twitku hybrid. If I was Yahoo I’d jump all over twitter. There’s nothing inherently “broken” with twitter, so unless Google can give you something in the improved jiaku that isn’t in twitter I don’t see there being a reason to switch.

  2. Jon Kelly writes:

    Switching cost is clearly higher in social media in search (though there is a ton of momentum use there too). Disagree on the name coolness though, twitter wins the name contest by a mile. Especially with the derivative tweats.
    It’s still hard to imaginge either even getting within eyesight of mainsteam.

  3. Eric Enge writes:

    I think that this acquisition has to be a small piece in a larger picture. For example, we have “Google Shared Stuff” at: http://www.google.com/s2/sharing/stuff. This is still not officially announced, and is in fact is a non-crawlable section of the Google site (/s2 is named in robots.txt).

    Google has not taken the lead in social media, but you can be sure that they are thinking about how to establish leadership in the space in the near future.



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