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Facebook Smear Campaign Against Google Is a Sign of Power Struggle

The backyard brawl that is the tech industry just got a little dirtier. On Tuesday it was confirmed that Facebook engineered a behind-the-scenes smear campaign against its competitor Google. The Daily Beast reports that Facebook hired public-relations firm Burson-Marsteller to spread anti-Google stories to news outlets. The goal of the stories was to raise concerns claiming that Google was invading people’s privacy.

The problem seems to be rooted in Google’s new tool called Social Circle. The new social networking tool is supposed to use information from your contacts and account to create an extensive group of people you are connected to through one way or another. Burson tried to use this new product as an excuse to question the privacy practices being used by Google.

Burson-Marsteller initially denied being a part of any such campaign. But once Facebook was confronted with evidence and confessed to orchestrating the plan, Burson admitted that it had taken part. According to a Facebook spokesperson who spoke to the Daily Beast, the company hired Burson for two reasons:

“first because it believes Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns; second and perhaps more important, because Facebook resents Google’s attempt to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service.”

While this fiasco has left both the social-networking giant and the prominent public relations firm embarrassed, it highlights a growing problem in the tech industry. As companies try to make their mark in new arenas of technology, they inevitably clash with the juggernauts who already control the market. Until now, most internet companies were content with finding a niche in the market and taking full advantage of one specific service. Google did it with search engines and Facebook with social networking. But today’s tech world has become so multi-dimensional that in order to keep pace with the competition, companies must provide all types of services to customers. The goal now isn’t to simply be the user’s choice for a certain service, but to become the user’s only choice for every service. So as companies venture into new sectors of technology, they can’t help but butt heads with the heavyweights who already control a specific market.

Take the Google-Facebook debacle for example. As Google looks for a successful way to enter the social networking race, it strives to find a way not to replace people’s social networking habits, but to improve them. This naturally involves at least some use of the data Facebook has already gathered. This certainly won’t be the last time two companies butt heads over territorial disputes.

What will be interesting to observe is which companies can adapt best to the new style of playing the game. This new period of technological Darwinism will eventually eliminate the weak and the strong will emerge as tomorrow’s tech giants. For Facebook, its situation could be a dangerous one. As we have seen many times, the first person with the new idea is often overtaken by those who take that idea and refine it. Does the name Prodigy ring any bells? As more companies venture into social marketing, it will be interesting to see how Facebook will weather the competition. The attempted smear campaign is a sign that Facebook is not a fan of the competition and will not let competitors take advantage of its data or services.

Amidst all the cutthroat competition for supremacy, the only people who will win for sure are us, the consumers. More competition means better services and more favorable features for users. In the dawn of a new era of online services, the push for greatness among companies will result in a paradigm shift to a new standard of quality, and that is something that will benefit everyone.

About the Author: Chris Faires is a freelance writer for My Colleges and Careers helps people determine if an online education is right for them and helps them search for online degrees that can help them reach their goals.

Posted in Social Networking. Tags: ,

2 Replies

  1. Jeanne Jun 16th 2011

    “In the dawn of a new era of online services, the push for greatness among companies will result in a paradigm shift to a new standard of quality, and that is something that will benefit everyone.”

    but will privacy be included in that new standard or will google and facebook agree to keep their privacy issues “private”? They both benefit way too much from exploiting privacy for the sake of ad revenue. will one company sacrifice that ad revenue for the sake of the consumer?

  2. Both google and Facebook are peerless at their core business – it seems so unnecessary that they fight each other on the opposition’s ground – they should really focus on keeping the lead in their own respective territories.

    I would have thought collaboration would kill off all competition in both social networking and online advertising – then they could split the pie between themselves.

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