Would Google really be so bold as to take on Facebook in the social networking game? And would the search giant actually brand its nascent network "Google Me"? That's the gossip whipping wildly around the Web this afternoon, and although Google reps have declined to comment, many leading tech blogs have begun to openly speculate against a Google and Facebook cage match (no holds barred).
The rumor mill began churning over the weekend, when Digg founder Kevin Rose posted a tweet identifying the purported Google social network by name. "Ok, umm, huge rumor: Google to launch facebook competitor very soon 'Google Me', very credible source," Rose wrote. A handful of Twitter users picked up on the news on Sunday, and by today, the fevered speculation had reached the front page of Google News.
Google Me? Well, it does have a nice ring to it. But keep in mind that Google has already waded into the social networking market, once with Orkut and again with Google Buzz, which incorporates many of the features that made Twitter so popular. Orkut went on to tank in the US, despite being insanely popular in Brazil and India – and Google Buzz has become less of a social network than a Web 2.0 sharing tool.
The real question is whether or not Google would want to risk waging a full-scale war against Facebook, which has seen its fortunes soar in the past year. Membership is up – the site now has more than 400 million members – and earlier this month, the New York Daily News reported Facebook raked in $800 million in revenue in 2009, which well exceeds previous estimates.
Meanwhile, Facebook traffic continues to climb. In June, Google announced that Facebook was the most popular site in the US. (Google didn't include itself on the list, but its traffic regularly exceeds that of Facebook.) Google reported that Facebook had 540 million unique visitors in April – some 35 percent of all Web users, universe-wide. That same month, the popular social-networking site drew 570 billion page views.