Google CEO Eric Schmidt said this week that Google intends to add a "social component" to "Google's core products."
He said if Google knows who your friends are, the company can improve search quality. "Everybody has convinced themselves that there's some huge project about to get announced next week. And I can assure you that's not the case," he said.
The consensus emerging from Schmidt's cryptic comments is that Google Me isn't a social network as rumored, but an initiative to add social elements to other Google services. The conceit is that Google's social strategy was a big mystery before, but now Schmidt has told us something we didn't know before.
At least one site even reported the news under the headline: "Eric Schmidt: We're Not Making A Facebook Rival."
Really? He said that?
In fact, Schmidt didn't say anything new at all. Let's break down what Schmidt actually said:
Google will make existing projects more social.
Knowing user contacts improves search relevance.
Google is not going to announce a huge project next week.
Schmidt's "announcement" announced nothing. Google has been socializing services for years. Google Reader has social elements. Gmail has been Buzzified. Google Search has acquired various social elements.
Adding social elements is just what companies do nowadays. Apple even added a social component called Ping to its iTunes music service. That Google plans to do what many other companies are doing -- add social features to existing services -- is something anyone could have guessed.
In fact, if Google were to announce that it would never add any social elements to existing products -- now that would have been truly shocking and unexpected.
Obviously Google is on a mission to improve the quality of search by sucking in contextual data. And obviously social network awareness helps the effort. Everybody already knows that. Even Schmidt said this is "obvious."
Schmidt's statement that Google won't announce a big project next week technical doesn't preclude the possibility that Google will do so week after next.
Most importantly, Schmidt did NOT say Google won't launch a social network to compete directly with Facebook. Yet this is what reporting implies.
We still have every reason to believe Google will launch such a social network. Here's why I still believe in a Google Me social network:
Until this week, the consensus rumor was that Google would launch a Facebook-killer social network called Google Me. And nothing has happened this week to disprove that rumor.
Of course, nobody knows what Google or any company will do in the future. But I still believe in Google Me.