In an interview with Bloomberg television on December 30, Google chairman Eric Schmidt admitted what everyone pretty much knows already: the search behemoth missed the boat on social networking and is still struggling to make up for lost time.
Schmidt told Bloomberg: “In our defense, we were busy working on many other things but we should have been in that area and I take responsibility for that.” While I am a big Schmidt fan (dork power!) I have to say this particular excuse rings a little hollow, considering all the crackpot side projects Google is famous for; yes, YouTube was a good buy and Android and Chrome are definitely winners, but I also seem to recall some very bold, very misinformed forays into print and radio ad sales, for example.
But the real barrier for Google, and anyone else trying to enter the social media market, is the challenge of creating a new social media platform that is both novel and useful enough to justify consumer interest. Any social network that is merely a stale retread of another, existing service is going to have trouble gaining traction (see Google+).
And the problems don’t end there: even established networks can suffer from the virtual human version of “sudden hive collapse,” as demonstrated by Friendster and MySpace, and the fate of Google’s own Orkut network in Brazil, and maybe now Facebook itself. Thus successful social networks will have to continue innovating -- or buying up innovation -- in order to keep up with an incredibly fickle user population, as with Facebook’s purchase of Instagram.
Happily for Google shareholders Schmidt vowed that missing the social wave is “not a mistake we’re going to make again.” So whatever that next unexpected development that no one could predict is… Google’s on it!