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王者之争:Facebook与谷歌决战未来(下)

Miguel Helft/Jessi Hempel 2011年11月08日

两大网络巨头的激烈竞争体现在从人才到产品到客户的方方面面。如今,Google+已经上线,获得了不俗的口碑,对此,Facebook正严阵以待,厉兵秣马。因为扎克伯格很清楚,现在社交网络领域已经不再是一家独大的局面,一旦Facebook有任何闪失,Google+完全有能力随时接管它的用户。

Facebook严阵以待

    直到最近,Google+上最受欢迎的人还是马克•扎克伯格,他已经拥有598,000名粉丝,而且数字还在增长。但到目前为止,他并未发布任何公共信息,而且他根本就不希望讨论Google+。在7月份的一次活动上,当被追问关于Google+的看法时,他认为“Google+只是进一步验证了未来5年网络的发展趋势”。(言下之意似乎是:他们只是在抄袭我们而已。)

    但在今年夏季的封闭研发期间,位于帕洛阿尔托市的Facebook总部内气氛紧张。超过750名工程师加班加点,他们忙碌的身影经常在扎克伯格坐镇的小型玻璃会议室外往来穿梭;而近年来,这种情形在Facebook仅出现过一次。当时是2010年夏天,外界盛传谷歌正在开发“Facebook杀手”,于是扎克伯格要求工程师们加班加点工作60天,优化网站的关键社交功能,如照片、群组和活动等。而与当时一样,今年夏天,Facebook的餐厅在晚上和周末对员工开放,员工的孩子可以到这里用餐,然后与父母道晚安——因为他们的父母还要工作到很晚。到今年9月份,Facebook发布了一系列新功能,例如可以与Google+的圈子功能媲美的群组工具。Facebook产品与研发团队的一位成员就表示:“【谷歌】可能会在社交项目上投入巨额资金和海量人力。所以,Facebook的所有人都感觉:情况非常严重,我们应该严肃对待。”

    这种焦虑情绪不仅仅表现在推动Facebook开发出更好的产品, Facebook甚至秘密聘请博雅公关公司(Burson-Marsteller)在报纸和博客上发表了一系列批评谷歌的文章,但这样拙劣的举措结果却适得其反,因为媒体很快就发现Facebook是博雅公关的客户。虽然Facebook声称此举是出于公司对谷歌违反隐私政策行为的担忧,但它却因为自己糟糕的判断力率先成为众矢之的。

    但具有讽刺意义的是,Facebook和谷歌一方面都希望尽可能为各自的广告商挖掘尽可能多的用户个人信息,但同时双方又一直在“保护用户隐私”方面苦苦挣扎。我们可能对Zappos网站上的一双鞋发表了评论,或是在状态栏里更新了未来婚礼计划的信息。而Facebook却能根据这些信息将我们引导至可能需要的商品广告上, 于是许多大公司纷纷将Facebook平台作为在网络上进行大规模品牌宣传活动的首选。因此,虽然Facebook目前的广告收入远比不上谷歌,但其增长速度却快得多。据美国市场研究公司eMarketer预计,今年Facebook的广告收入将飙升至43亿美元,较去年的20亿美元增长一倍多。而相比而言,分析师预测谷歌今年广告收入的增长幅度仅为30%,约为380亿美元。

    如何让更多用户在Facebook上消磨更多时间,与Facebook好友分享更多信息,进而积累更多数据?目前,扎克伯格正被这一问题所困扰。在今年9月举行的F8大会上,他发布了一项被称为“时间线”的功能,用来取代Facebook逐渐落伍的个人资料页面。扎克伯格对这一功能的解释是:“想象一下,这就像是你正在讲述自己的人生经历一样。”为了清楚地演示这一功能,他以自己的Facebook时间线为例作为说明。这是一个垂直的时间轴,追溯了他的人生经历,其中按顺序列出了他在网站上发布的所有帖子,通过这些帖子,他一生中所有最重要的时刻一目了然;同时,这一功能促使他发布了大量的帖子和照片来追溯人生,一直回溯到1984年5月14日。帖子写到:出生于多布斯费里,纽约。实际上,扎克伯格计划引导用户将Facebook变成个人生活的数字剪贴本。我们不妨设想一下,假如用户要补上个人在Facebook诞生之前数十年间的生活片段,他们将要花多少时间上传照片,整理活动记录。

Facebook

    Until recently, the most popular person on Google+, with 598,000 followers and counting, was Mark Zuckerberg. But he has yet to make a public post, and indeed he'd prefer not to discuss Google+ at all. When pressed at a July event, he called it only a "validation as to how the next five years are going to play out." (Translation: Uh, they're copying us.)

    However, inside the Palo Alto office where more than 750 engineers regularly pass by the small glass conference room in which Zuckerberg, 27, holds court, Facebook employees put in some serious overtime during the summer lockdown. This had happened only once before in recent years at Facebook: After word leaked that Google was starting work on a "Facebook killer" in summer 2010, Zuckerberg called on engineers to work nights and weekends for 60 days to revamp key social features like photos, groups, and events. Just as it did then, the cafeteria opened up on evenings and weekends this summer, and children dropped in for dinners and good-night hugs before their parents logged back on for late nights. By September, Facebook had released a slew of new features like better grouping tools to mirror those Google+ circles. Says one member of the product and engineering team: "[Google] can throw all the money in the world, including hundreds of people, at this. So people were, like, This is serious, and we should take it seriously."

    That anxiety wasn't simply channeled into building a better product. In May, Facebook secretly hired public relations firm Burson-Marsteller to plant anti-Google stories in papers and blogs, a ham-fisted move that backfired when journalists discovered Facebook was Burson's client. The company defended its concerns about Google's privacy violations but took the flak for bad judgment.

    The irony, of course, is that Facebook and Google both are in a constant struggle to respect users' privacy while mining as much personal information as possible for the companies' advertisers. All that social information we plug into Facebook when we "like" a pair of shoes on Zappos or update our status about future wedding plans helps the company serve us up ads for things we're more likely to want. This has made Facebook into the go-to advertising platform for big marketers hoping to do brand advertising at scale on the web. As a result, even though Facebook's revenue is minuscule compared with Google's, it is growing at a much faster rate. It is expected to surge to $4.3 billion this year, or more than double the $2 billion it had last year, according to eMarketer. In contrast, analysts predict that Google's revenue will grow just 30%, to $38 billion.

    Zuckerberg is obsessed with figuring out how to amass more data by getting more people to spend more time sharing more things with their Facebook friends. At the F8 event in September, he unveiled something called a timeline to replace Facebook's aging profile pages. "Imagine expressing the story of your life," Zuckerberg explained. To demonstrate, he popped up his own Facebook timeline, where a vertical line scrolled backward through his personal history, curating all the posts he'd ever made on the site to bring to the surface the most important items and encouraging him to add posts and photos going all the way back to the May 14, 1984, post: Born, Dobbs Ferry, New York. In effect, Zuckerberg plans to coax us into making Facebook our living digital scrapbooks. Imagine the hours users may log uploading photos and labeling events from the lost decades B.F. (Before Facebook).

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