Facebook and Google: BFFs?

A Facebook-Google Alliance: Pipe Dream or Possibility?

Facebook and Google: BFFs?

Ever think you’d see the day Facebook and Google execs stood side by side and announced their solidarity to the world?

Don’t get too excited – that hasn’t (and likely won’t) come to pass any time soon. However, according to a quote from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg cited in a recent TechCrunch article, the social network would “love to work with Google.”

Since it’s kind of, um, common knowledge that the two companies are bitter rivals, this remark caught many reporters in the tech world quite off guard. Was ol’ Zuck being a smidge facetious with the quip? It’s entirely possible – after all, he’s already thumbed his nose at tech bigwigs a time or two in the past. To understand whether the statement was indeed genuine (and therefore a foreshadowing of the two companies playing nice with one another), we’re gonna need a little more of the story.

The Context of the Remark

On January 15, Zuckerberg dropped a bomb on the search community during a Facebook press event. He announced the unveiling of the social network’s newest offering – Graph Search. Of course, Facebook’s treasure trove of personal data is a drool-worthy asset that Google’s been eying for years now. The new product will allow users to search that data to find answers to their questions.

Insult to injury: two of G’s former rank-and-file, Tom Stocky and Lars Rasmussen, joined the Facebook team to help build it. Ouch. Facebook reps rubbed salt in the wound by calling the collaboration a “Dream Team.”

The FTC investigation, the EU’s current antitrust probe, and now this? Google’s having one heck of a hard year… and it’s only January. Cosmic penance, perhaps, for all those algos and website wipe-outs in 2012?

During the press conference, Zuck insisted that Graph Search would function entirely differently than traditional web search, noting that, “Web search is designed to take any open-ended query and give you links that might have answers.”

Graph Search is designed to answer questions for users about pictures, interests, people, and places. Facebookers can access this new search feature in order to hunt down other users in their network, find new ways to connect, and to relive old memories. The tool provides users with a number of different filters to tailor their search, including “liked by,” “visited by friends,” and “place type.” To work its magic, the social titan partnered with Google’s long-time nemesis – Microsoft’s Bing. That, my friends, is when Zuck delivered the now-infamous comment.

Possible Motives for the Comment

The comment may have been a jab, but the possibility that it was an olive branch is not out of the question, either. Facebook and Google aren’t exactly speaking at the moment, but if they kiss and make up, we may see Facebook integrating some Google-powered magic into its Graph Search sometime soon. TechCrunch paraphrased Zuckerberg’s explanation for Facebook’s cold shoulder:

“I think that the main thing is that when people share something on Facebook we want to give them the ability to broadcast something out and then take it down or set privacy settings. That requires quick updating, removing photos. We also need that content to be gone if something changes their privacy settings.

You need infracture that can support that. Microsoft was more willing to do things that fit with Facebook. People want flexibility, and that was the stumbling block with Google in our last round of talks. I’m not sure if that was detail in the negotiation or rift between Facebook’s and Google’s strategies.”

So, it all boils down to privacy issues. After the year Google’s had so far, I’m sure the company will come to the table to work something out. Or maybe it’ll just add the exact same feature to Google+. Only time will tell.