Will Google "Friendster" Facebook?

Anyone remember Friendster? It was an early entrant into the social networking scene. If they had done their work right they SHOULD have been a much bigger player than they are now.

Why aren’t they?

1. They didn’t take care of PR and didn’t take care of bloggers. Hmmm, Facebook is doing exactly the same thing. Several people at the dinner tonight noted that Facebook hasn’t responded to claims that Facebook’s employees are spying on data that the public doesn’t have access to. And that’s just one PR complaint.
2. They kicked people out that they didn’t like. Hmmm, Facebook is doing exactly the same thing.
3. They didn’t respond to new competitors who took away their coolness. Facebook? They are about to meet their biggest competition yet.

Last night I was at a dinner for Hugh Macleod and Oren Michaels. There was talk of an earthquake. No, not the 5.6 one centered near San Jose. The fact that Google is about to jump into the social networking world. TechCrunch caused the shockwave of the year with that one.

One name that’s on the Google announcement, Plaxo, tells me that Google is looking to build a “social graph” that’s open and doesn’t have walls keeping developers from playing. They are looking to “Friendster” Facebook.

Add into this last week’s little “Vic Gundotra” dinner and I’m already seeing a trend: Google is going full bore after influentials, bloggers, and other “new media” developers who need a social network as part of their efforts to remain competitive.

Think about it. Nearly every cool Web property lately has a social network. Upcoming.org, Flickr, Yelp, Channel 9, etc. All have their own proprietary social networks.

Look at MySpace and Facebook. Both don’t solve that problem.

Will Google? And, by helping out Web 2.0 developers and other influentials (Facebook calls them “whales”) will Google cut off Facebook’s PR air supply (which is proving quite lucrative)?

Those are things I’m going to focus on for the next few days.

Some things we still need answers on:

1. Is this new Google social network really fun to use like Facebook is?
2. Does it beat Facebook’s aesthetics?
3. Can the social graph be componetized so that I could add a social network to my blog, for instance?
4. Does the development platform beat Facebook’s? (Can I see which apps my friends have loaded, is the key question).
5. Does it build a really open social graph?
6. If Google does match Facebook’s utility (really easy: just clone the hell out of it but give the “whales” more than 5,000 friends. I’ve talked with many celebrities and businesses and they say 5,000 simply isn’t enough which is why many of them are forced to stay on MySpace) do they allow new kinds of social ads?

It’s going to be an interesting next month getting around to all these companies again and seeing what they plan to do.