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技术

王者之争:Facebook与谷歌决战未来(上)

Miguel Helft/Jessi Hempel 2011年11月04日

为了千百亿美元的利润和统治网络世界,两大技术巨头的对抗愈演愈烈。

点击可放大图片

    保罗•亚当斯在硅谷炙手可热。他是一位才华横溢的产品设计师,戴着方框眼镜,说话带有浓重的爱尔兰口音,疯狂崇拜激情四溢的技术狂人。作为谷歌(Google)顶尖的社交网络研究员,谷歌新社交网站Google+背后的理念很大程度上便出自他的创意:Google+中灵活的“圈子”功能使用户可以轻松把好友分成“挚友”或“大学哥们”。但他并未能在谷歌将自己的理念推向消费者。在去年12月的一场天才争夺战中,他选择加盟位于帕洛阿尔托以东10英里的Facebook,帮助其设计社交广告。对此,亚当斯在博客中解释道:“谷歌重视的是技术,而不是社交。”

    科技公司之间相互竞争的情况由来已久,但很少有像谷歌与Facebook这两个网络豪强之间的竞争如此激烈和残酷。为了争取像亚当斯这样的人才,吸引用户眼球,争夺广告收入,它们会不惜一切代价。虽然两家公司并未像甲骨文(Oracle)与惠普(HP)般公开诋毁挑衅,也没有如微软(Microsoft)与网景(Netscape)般明刀明枪地交火,但双方都为竞争投入了巨大的筹码。两家公司都希望成为未来网络的主宰——而最终的结果将会影响我们获取信息、沟通以及进行交易的方式。

    Facebook与谷歌:王者之争

    交战一方Facebook是社交网络中的“王者”,希望巩固自己的地位,掌握所有人的网络生活。而另一方谷歌则控制着全球的海量信息,引领人们的搜索方式,它希望在互联网从超链接时代向以人为本转变的过程中保持自己的统治地位。

    谷歌联合创始人兼CEO拉里•佩奇(4月份上任)仅比Facebook的马克•扎克伯格年长11岁,但他们却属于不同的网络一代,并且拥有截然不同的世界观。在佩奇的世界里,一切均从搜索开始。用户通过搜索来查看新闻,查找钟爱的鞋子,追踪最喜爱的名人动态。如果需要了解医院的医疗条件或决定需要购买的电视型号,用户首先要进行搜索。而且在这一领域,谷歌的程序经过十多年的改进已经如鱼得水。但近几年,网络世界却在逐渐向扎克伯格的世界倾斜,这种变革甚至堪称残酷。在扎克伯格的世界里,我们不再通过搜索获得新闻,而是等着朋友来告诉我们新鲜资讯,告诉我们他们喜欢的电影,钟爱的品牌,甚至去那里吃美味的寿司。

    现在,Facebook已经成为新互联网世界的核心,很多人一天的在线生活也是从这里开始。而Facebook成功的秘诀在于让公司在网络中传播,并允许他人分享用户的朋友圈子。结果,成千上万个网站和应用像卫星一样,围绕着Facebook运行。我们可以打开点评网站Yelp查看好友如何评价街边新开的咖啡厅,到在线音乐服务网站Spotify,让好友帮我们挑选音乐,或者与好友一起玩社交游戏公司Zynga开发的游戏。而对于佩奇来说,更糟糕的是谷歌的程序根本无法捕捉这些社交活动,导致这种程序,甚至于谷歌搜索本身的精确性日益下降,进而日益与人们的生活脱节。    

    Paul Adams is one of Silicon Valley's most wanted. He's an intellectually minded product designer with square-framed glasses, a thick Irish accent, and a cult following of passionate techies. As one of Google's lead social researchers, he helped dream up the big idea behind the company's new social network, Google+: those flexible circles that let you group friends easily under monikers like "real friends" or "college buddies." He never got to help bring his concept to consumers, though. In a master talent grab last December, Facebook lured him 10 miles east to Palo Alto to help design social advertisements. On his blog, Adams explained, "Google values technology, not social science."

    In the long history of tech rivalries, rarely has there been a battle as competitive as the raging war between the web's wonder twins. They will stop at nothing to win over whip-smart folks like Adams, amass eyeballs, and land ad dollars. There's no public trash talking à la the Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500) vs. HP (HPQ, Fortune 500) smackdown, nor are the battle lines drawn as clearly as they were when Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) took on Netscape, but the stakes are immense. These companies are fighting to see which of them will determine the future of the web -- and the outcome will affect the way we get information, communicate, and buy and sell.

    Facebook and Google: Head-to-Head

    In one corner is Facebook, the reigning champion of the social web, trying to cement its position as the owner of everyone's online identity. In the other is Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), the company that organized the world's information and showed us how to find it, fighting to remain relevant as the Internet of hyperlinks gives way to an Internet of people.

    Although Larry Page, Google's co-founder and its CEO since April, was born just 11 years before Mark Zuckerberg, his counterpart at Facebook, the two belong to different Internet generations with different worldviews. In Page's web, everything starts with a search. You search for news or for a pair of shoes or to keep up with your favorite celebrity. If you want to learn about a medical condition or decide which television to buy, you search. In that world, Google's algorithms, honed over more than a decade, respond almost perfectly. But in recent years the web has tilted gradually, and perhaps inexorably, toward Zuckerberg's world. There, rather than search for a news article, you wait for your friends to tell you what to read. They tell you what movies they enjoyed, what brands they like, and where to eat sushi.

    Facebook is squarely at the center of this new universe, and much of what people do online these days starts there. But Facebook's masterstroke has been to spread itself across the web and allow others to tap your network of friends. As a result, thousands of websites and apps have essentially become satellites that orbit around Facebook. You can now go to Yelp to find out what your Facebook friends say about the new coffeehouse down the street, visit Spotify to let them pick music playlists for you, or play Zynga games with them. To make matters worse for Page, much of this social activity can't be seen by Google's web-trolling algorithms, so every day they (and by extension, Google) become a little bit less accurate and relevant.

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