Google has finally confirmed, in a way, Google Me, the rumored social network that it has been working on for the past few months. But it says that Google Me is not a dedicated social network, as many have speculated, but rather a layer of social features built into every Google product.
"We're trying to take Google's core products and add a social component," Google's CEO Eric Schmidt told
a select group at the Google Zeitgeist conference underway now in Scottsdale, Arizona.
"If you think about it, it's obvious. With your permission, knowing more about who your friends are, we can provide more tailored recommendations. Search quality can get better," he explained.
Schmidt wouldn't go into too much details, but the take-away was that there won't be a new product and that Google Me is a number of social features and services all working together.
But Schmidt did want to make sure that people got one thing straight, Google is not planning a Facebook-killer. Then again, it's hard not to notice the fact that Google is very worried that the social network will replace it as the go-to website.
For many people it still has, but search is still very important for the way many browse the web. Yet even search is threatened and Google feels compelled to add a social layer to improve the quality and relevance of its responses.
Of course, few could argue against the fact that some searches could much better be answered by their friends rather than an algorithm. Google knows this too and doesn't want Facebook to slowly usurp its position.
But Google already has social search, which is based on your friends on various sites and social networks.
At this point, Schmidt's explanations raise more questions than provide answers. If Google Me is not a dedicated social network, then how exactly is Google going to build a social circle.
Many Google services already have social components, but each acts differently. You have Gmail contacts, Chat buddies, followers on Google Reader and so on.
Google Me should and probably will serve as a way of bringing all of them together in a comprehensive way. But the last time Google tried to build a social circle, with Google Buzz, it failed miserably.
Another option is to use the social graphs from other sites, Facebook, Twitter and so on. There are indications that Google plans to do this, but again, the details on how it plans to do it are missing.
Still Google Me is apparently launching very, very soon so these questions should get answered.