Businesses may find that they have yet another social media platform to factor into their thinking if rumours that Google is once again attempting to make its mark on the social networking space bear any fruit.
The gossip was initially sparked by Kevin Rose, the co-founder of social news site Digg, when he tweeted: "OK, umm, huge rumor: Google to launch Facebook competitor very soon. ‘Google Me’, very credible source."
This post has since been removed, but even though the search giant has so far not substantiated the story, it has caused a surge of excitement - though it could be argued that expectations should be tempered in light of Google's previous form in this field.
The search giant has made various forays into the sector with the launch of at least three social networking products – Wave, Orkut and Buzz. Orkut is a social media site that was intended to take on Facebook, while Wave is a communications and collaboration tool to enable users to share text, images, videos and the like in real-time.
Buzz, on the other hand, is a messaging tool that integrates with the firm’s Gmail email offering and enables consumers to consolidate links, social media status messages, photos etc into their user inbox. None of these, however, has had the success to match their pre-launch hype.
But speculation is rife as to what the new offering might be. The Next Web’s Brad McCarty, for example, believes that it could be a bridge between Orkut and Buzz. "Knowing that a Google account is required to use Orkut and a Gmail account is required for Buzz, we can safely assume that we’re looking at roughly 200 million users to any service that would combine the two," he said. "Two hundred million is already half of the 400 million population of Facebook."
PC World’s Brennon Slattery, however, predicted that it could be an upgrade of Google Profiles, which enables users to display their personal information to users of other Google products.
"Think for a moment about how many Google features you use. Now think about how much Google knows about you based on those apps. Aggregating all of that information into one web site and transforming it into a social experience would be a breezy process for Google and you," he said.
But Greg Sterling, founder and principal with Sterling Market Intelligence, told TechNewsWorld: "It could be a successor to Orkut or some merging of Buzz and Latitude [which enables mobile phone users to share location information] or something else such as an upgrade or enhancement to Google Profiles."
But he believed that whatever it was, Google Me was unlikely to act as a direct challenger to Facebook, claiming: "Regardless of what Google does, it’s unlikely to put a dent in Facebook usage."
GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram agreed. "The odds are overwhelmingly stacked against the search engine company. Despite its size and market clout, Google hasn’t shown that it has any real understanding of how social networking actually works, or any idea what to do with it."