Did Google inspire Facebook Groups?
Itâ€™s no secret that Google has struggled to make its mark in the fast-growing social networking market. (Witness Googleâ€™s string of stumbles, including Buzz, Orkut and the recently-euthanized Wave).
So you wouldnâ€™t expect Facebook, theÂ 800-pound gorilla of social networking, to take any cues from Google when it comes to product development.
But in the wake of Facebookâ€™s newly-unveiled Groups feature, some are pointing to an interesting presentation this summer byÂ Googleâ€™s Paul Adams, who focuses on user experience research and social networking.
InÂ a presentation published by various media online, Adams explains the problem of social networking sites like Facebook, in which a personâ€™s various real-lifeÂ cliques andÂ social circles (college buddies, co-workers, family members) are inelegantly lumped into oneÂ homogeneous group of â€śfriends.â€ť
He uses the example of Debbie, a swim instructor in San Diego whose ten-year-old swim students â€śfriendâ€ť her on Facebook, and are thus able to view the photos that her friends in LA, who work in a gay bar, have posted of some of their wild nights.
Everyone is being shoved into this big bucket, Adams wrote. â€śPeople donâ€™t have one group of friends.â€ť
Of course, this issue has been a longstanding complaint among many Facebook users, so it wouldn’t be surprising ifÂ Facebook had been trying to solve this problem long before the Googler’s presentation.
But thereâ€™s nothing like a deep-pocketed rival pointing out a weakness to get the mind focused and kick a project onto the fast-track.
We’ve asked Facebook what role the Google presentation played in the development of Groups, but have yet to hear back.
A Google spokeswoman sent the following statement about the presentation: “At Google, we have a large team of researchers who meet regularly with others in the research community to discuss industry trends and observations. Sharing and discussion is common among researchers, and a routine part of the Internet community.”
Here’s the full presentation for your reading pleasure: