Some people wonder if Google understands enough about social connections in order to create tools that Internet users want to use. The bottom line, some people say, is that the culture of Google is heavily based on the power of the algorithm, and it is very difficult for an algorithm to predict social interaction. The introduction of Buzz in February, for example, caused a wave of criticism from privacy advocates and users, because it automatically registered the Gmail contacts of the individual registrant’s network. The giant then quickly changed the service and went on to suggest friends rather than connect them automatically. Before the public launch of Buzz, it was tested only by employees of the company.
Google assembled a team of engineers to work on social networks, led by two executives who were in the Buzz – Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering responsible for mobile applications, and Bradley Horowitz, vice president of application management of Google Apps. “Google, as part of our mission to organize the world’s information, also needs to organize and make it very useful for you to see the interactions of your friends, to participate with them and benefit,” said Gundotra. Google will also assemble a puzzle of social networking companies, technologies and engineers. They have acquired Slide and Jambool, which made apps and virtual goods and currency for social networks, and Angstro, which built tools to exchange information among social services. This year, it bought Aardvark, to which users can post questions that are answered by individuals, and invested in the gaming company Zynga. There is no question that Google is looking to get into the “social networking” game.
Larry Yu, a Facebook spokesman, said his company expected competitors large and small to emerge but was focused on building a valuable service. Privately, though, Facebook executives have said that their biggest worry is that Google will prioritize a Google profile page over a Facebook page in search results.