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Google challenges Facebook with its own social network

SAN FRANCISCO — Can Google be social?

The Internet search giant whose mission is to organize the world's information is attempting to organize the world's people with a social networking service that will attempt to rival the growing influence of Facebook.

The service, called Google+, will let people share their lives and do the kinds of things they already do on Facebook such as post status updates, photos and links. Its focus is on sharing with small groups rather than your entire universe of friends

It's initially only open to a limited number of Google users who will eventually be able to invite others.

This is a risky gambit for Google, which has had a string of social networking flops, most recently Buzz. It's also a project that co-founder and chief executive Larry Page has personally overseen.

Page knows Google has to make the transition from a Web that connects pages to a Web that connects people. Facebook threatens Google's hegemony as the Web's most popular destination and one of its biggest moneymakers.

All that sharing taking place on Facebook is largely inaccessible to Google and other search engines. And Facebook is consuming a lot of people's time. In May, 180 million people visited Google sites, including YouTube, according to research firm ComScore. More than 157 million visited Facebook. And those Facebook users spent an average of 375 minutes on the site versus 231 minutes on Google.

Why is that important? Advertisers are watching. It's not clear that gains at Facebook are costing Google — yet. But clearly that could happen.

Does Google have it in its DNA to become a social destination? It clearly has been adding plenty of talent that have the know-how. Google+ is part of an urgent effort under way for months under the code name Emerald Sea.

But many observers say Google has moved too slowly to counter Facebook. Even Google chairman Eric Schmidt, the company's CEO for more than a decade, recently acknowledged that.

Schmidt said he "screwed up" in social networking. "I clearly knew I had to do something, and I failed to do it," he said.

One of the most major errors was a social networking service for Gmail users called Buzz, which automatically included their e-mail contacts in the network, setting off a firestorm. Google changed the service and in March settled with the Federal Trade Commission and agreed to 20 years of privacy audits.

Google seems to have learned a lesson with Google+ about people's desire to control what information they share. That may get the attention of the folks at Facebook.

MySpace for sale after years of losses

LOS ANGELES — News Corp. is aiming to sell struggling social network site MySpace this week after three years of massive losses, the Associated Press reports. The move will likely result in the layoff of more than half of the site's remaining 500 workers.

At least three bidders are still in the running — online advertising network Specific Media, private equity fund Golden Gate Capital and Austin Ventures, an investment fund that is working with MySpace co-founder Chris DeWolfe.

News Corp. is looking to cut a deal today or Thursday in order to have it completed in its fiscal year, which ends Thursday.

Earlier, the News Corp.-owned website All Things D reported that MySpace was on the verge of being sold for $20 million to $30 million.

AP, citing an unnamed person familiar with the matter, reported that the deal price will likely be much higher and include a combination of cash and stock.

Even so, any sale around that price would mark a stunning reversal from 2005, when News Corp. bought the promising startup for $580 million when social networking was in its infancy.

180 million

People who visited Google sites in May, including YouTube. Each spent an average of 231 minutes.

157 million

Approximate number of people who visited Facebook in May, averaging 375 minutes each.

Google challenges Facebook with its own social network 06/28/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 11:05pm]
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