Unlike our good friend Steve, Eric Schmidt is one of the “true believers” in social networking. Perhaps he’s just one of the “younger people” (or younger at heart people) that Ballmer said were so absorbed in the faddish nature of social networking, even though he is a couple months older than Ballmer.
Whatever the case, Schmidt is praising the power and popularity of social networks—and dropping hints about a Google social network in front of the New York Times.
Mr. Schmidt did say that over the next year, Google is planning to use information it has about the connections between its users, something techies call the “social graph,” to improve searches and other Google services.
This statement, naturally, raises a dozen questions. Is the next step beyond personalization socialization? How similar would this be to products that Yahoo has offered for years or the predictions we’ve heard for years now?
Perhaps more importantly, what information does Google have about the “connections between its users”? So far, things like Google Talk and GMail will add and remember someone that I’ve e-mailed once. Odds aren’t great that I’ll be interested in the results that they thought looked good when I can’t even remember who they are.
In general, I think personalization is more advanced—and far more helpful—than socialization. You have a reasonably good idea what a person is looking for based on their own past searches, but looking at their friends’ past searches is much less indicative. The only way this might ever be truly helpful is to use this data in a cumulative way—ranking a site higher because 80% of your friends found this site interesting when they searched on that keyword sort of thing.
Schmidt continued to expound upon Google’s social efforts:
He said the company would like to sell advertising for Facebook, a position currently enjoyed by Microsoft. And he highlighted Google’s existing social network service, Orkut, and its deal to sell ads on behalf of MySpace, the largest social networking site.
I’d love to know how he “highlighted” Orkut. Maybe their social results will be big in Brazil, too.