Commentary

Google: You Want Places? We Got Places

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A day after Facebook unveiled its Places location-sharing initiative, Google checked in to let the world know it would be a major competitor in the space. In a blog post ostensibly about Google Maps surpassing 100 million users, Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering, touted a variety of location-based features and services Google has rolled out over the last five years.

These include its Latitude tool for finding friends' wheareabouts; and Navigation, a GPS service that provides voice guidance and street-by-street photos to turn a cell phone into a full navigation device. Gundotra also highlighted Place Pages, which Google launched last year to let local businesses add photos, reviews and other information about themselves to mapped locations.

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That's very similar to a new Facebook Places feature that encourages business to create promotional pages for the site. A Wall Street Journal article Thursday highlighted how both companies will now go head-to-head to win local advertising dollars through their respective location-based offerings. Google says 4 million business already have a Place page and thousands more have paid to have listings in search and maps for about $1 a day.

But the companies are taking different approaches to cracking the code on local advertising based on their corporate DNA. "In highlighting Latitude and Place Pages, however, Gundotra inadvertently highlighted what Google's social efforts are missing: people," notes Venturebeat's Sid Yadav. "Facebook Places let users tag their friends with a location, and Place Pages track who likes a location and who's checked in there."

He adds that while Google has long focused on technology and data, Facebook has centered around interactions between people. In that regard, it's not surprising the post indirectly responding to Facebook Places was made by Gundotra, who's heading Google's effort to take on Facebook in social networking, dubbed Google Me.

Whatever high-level technical chops he brings to the task, Gundotra showed he isn't reluctant to make the hard sell in pitching Google's location-based offerings. In closing, he wrote: "If you're a business owner, help millions of people find you by claiming your free Place Page available in Google Maps and our most used mobile 'app' -- Google Search. Get started at places.google.com/businesses."

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