Does Google want to eat Facebook's lunch?

Photo courtesy of Zazzle []

Photo courtesy of Zazzle

The details are sparse for now, but the rumour mill is shifting into overtime with word of Google jumping into the social network space in a serious way. So says a former Facebook executive Adam D’Angelo.

D’Angelo isn’t saying how he knows this, other than to cite “reliable sources” who are apparently familiar with Google’s plans. D’Angelo isn’t the only one who is pushing this story. Last week, Kevin Rose  – the founder of popular news aggregation site Digg – reportedly tweeted that “Ok, umm, huge rumor: Google to launch facebook competitor very soon ‘Google Me,’ very credible source.” That tweet has since been deleted.

Although rumours of this nature should always be treated with skepticism, it’s not such a stretch to think this story might be accurate. Google already owns a very successful (though nothing compared to Facebook) social networking site, and they have recently been experimenting with integrating social tools into email. But so far they have yet to launch a serious competitor to the social juggernaut that is Facebook.

Moreover, as people look more and more to their friends and other connections for information on everything from restaurant and movie recommendations to opinions on the latest gadget, Google’s primary and most profitable line of business (search) could theoretically become obsolete. Personally I doubt this will happen any time soon, but the company has to take such a threat seriously – especially when it comes in the shape of an addictive service like Facebook.

Facebook has repeatedly come under fire for their sketchy privacy practices. Most notably here in Canada, our Privacy czar hasn’t been shy about telling the company to shape up or face the consequences. But Google is no stranger to the privacy watchdog’s warnings either. All of which begs the question: If “Google Me” is in fact about to go head-to-head with Facebook, will users be willing to give them yet another slice of their online personality profile? Google already knows a ton about its users. A social network will increase this knowledge (and thus its value) a hundred-fold.