The Facebook Operating System

The last time that Facebook tried to seize control of the internet, it was by using Facebook Connect to pull everyone else’s content within its walls. Well, it seems that Facebook might be opening up another front in its fight for world (wide web) domination, and this time, Google might actually be worried.

Facebook seems looking to break out of its web-based cage and enter into personal devices by developing its own operating system. TechCrunch recently reported that Facebook has poached some new hires (including 2 Googlers) with extensive experience in OS development, including:

  • Matthew Papakipos, Google’s Director of Engineering who started and led Google’s Chrome OS project
  • Jocelyn Goldfein, a former VP at VMware and the General Manager of their desktop business unit
  • Eric Tseng, previously Google’s senior Android Developer

Googler Implications

Consequently, it’s no wonder rumors have surfaced that Google is (1) scared, and (2) working on a Facebook competitor called Google Me.

After all, there are two main implications, here, for Google. First, given Facebook’s user base, the potential for a Facebook OS to attain critical mass is considerable.

More importantly, such an OS would mean that it wouldn’t matter where the content was because the user would always be within Facebook’s walled-garden.

Just imagine: an OS that did everything that Chrome or Android does, but also makes it easier to interact with your friends on your favorite social network.

It could give Facebook a considerable edge over Google. Technically, Facebook users’ Google sessions would all be inside the wall. Facebook could gather data on how every one of its OS users use Google — including what they search, what they click on, and what’s in their Gmail.

Of course, Facebook is not the next Google. They don’t even seem to be trying to be.

But given Google’s track record with social networking, maybe we should be asking: Can Google be the next Facebook?

UPDATE on Google Me: It looks like we might have glimpse of just how Google Me is supposed to work.  Search Engine Land reported yesterday that Google has added Google Buzz links to its social search. This means that content from any account tied to your Google Buzz will now show up when anyone in your social circle does a search:

How does Google determine my social network? […] In short, Google examines:

  • Google Reader: if you have a Google Reader account, any content such as blogs that you subscribe to are considered part of your circle
  • Google Chat: anyone you’ve enabled to chat with is considered part of your social circle
  • Google Contacts: Anyone you’ve classified as friends, family or coworkers is part of your circle
  • Google Profile: Anyone’s content you’ve associated with yourself via your profile is examined to locate people to add to your circle

So it looks like rather than trying to pull everyone (and every thing) within its walls like Facebook, Google’s strategy might be to pull everyone’s personal social network out into the open.

About CT Moore

A former Staff Editor here at, CT Moore is a recovering agency hack with over a decade experience leveraging search, social media, and content marketing to help brands meet their business goals online. He currently provides digital strategy consulting to start-ups, SMBs, enterprise level companies through his consultancy Socialed Inc.. CT is also an accomplished blogger and speaker who educates groups and companies on how they can better leverage different online channels.

2 Responses to The Facebook Operating System

  1. Sanjay says:

    It's about territory and scope. FB and Google have their own traditional core competencies that are just now starting to overlap.

    – FB rules social media and has seen all its past forays into search and ad-serving either fail or significantly under-perform.

    – Google, on the other hand, defined search and relevant ad-serving but has consistnetly missed the mark with social media. Orkut, Picasso, Buzz, etc. are half-measure attempts that are complete failures.

    FB knows social product whereas Google knows service products.

    This is all subject to change in the next few years. Why?

    – FB connect and now its ubiquitous global "Like" functions. There is no way to understate this: it will be a complete game-changer. FB through its partners will have full USER-LEVEL data on 500m+ subscribers. Everything from personally-identifiable data (real name, location, birthdate, etc.) to search and browsing habits, purchasing habits, content consumption, social connections etc. will be tracked back and stored at the user level. The reprecussions this has to relevant ad-serving is enormous: personalized ad banners calling out a user's name a la Minority Report; personalized search results and suggestions; tailored content delivered to the user; the social graph becoming a predictor of behvaiour.

    Google has search data per user, but that's really about it. There's no evidence that Google has ever tied Gmail, Adwords or any other account product info into any other service. Google knows you get emails about World Cup soccer and serves you an ad about cleats. Google sees you search browse content relating to World Cup soccer and serves you an ad about live-game streaming. Where Google fails (and FB will succeed) is tying that into personally-identifiable data and personalizing/tailoring ads to the user.

    Similarly, FB search presently sucks. That's because it's just an index of the FB user database with some Google results. FB Like has the potential to couple the FB database with content across the Internet, meaning that FB search will be far more comprehensive than Google.

    So what's Google's answer? Google Me. A copycat version of FB that will aim to steal 500m users from FB.

    Too little, too late.

  2. […] June 28, 2010 – Facebook poached Matthew Papakipos from Google. Papakipos led the Chrome OS project, leading to speculation that Facebook is working on its own OS. […]