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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。

    但Facebook在F8会议上最大胆的举措并不是上述功能更新,而是在社交层面进一步与Netflix和Spotify等其他服务进行整合。现在,如果用户希望注册Spotify,就必须提供他们的Facebook账户信息。而这一点对用户来说,有利的一面是可以在Spotify或Facebook上直接找到和收听朋友的播放列表,而不利的一面则是自己的音乐偏好将被公之于众(例如,肖恩•帕克正在收听Florence + the Machine乐队的音乐)。而随着时间的推移,这类新的数据可能蕴藏着巨大的商业价值。虽然现在许多网络出版商允许用户选择是否在Facebook上公开自己的动态,比如他们读过的文章,或他们购买的鞋子等,但多数用户都会跳过这一步。而在新的模式下,共享成为了一种选择性退出,而不是选择性进入。由此,Facebook可以突然之间获得大量的用户在线行为信息,并最终利用这些数据来出售更有针对性的线上和线下广告。 如果说谷歌AdWords和AdSense广告平台是目前帮助广告客户找到大量有采购目标的受众,那么社交广告的用途则是用来帮助人们发现新的事物。

战火硝烟四起

    10月末的一天,科技博客界因为社交网络领域的一则新闻而沸沸扬扬:扎克伯格不再是Google+上拥有粉丝最多的用户。是谁取代了他呢?这个人正是佩奇。虽然看起来这不足为奇,但不难想象谷歌总部肯定为此窃喜不已。无论是谷歌还是Facebook都不愿谈论双方之间的竞争(因此他们也不愿意CEO们就本文置评),但实际上,双方已经在很多方面展开较量,哪怕是一次小小的胜利都会让他们弹冠相庆。

    两家公司对人才的争夺或许是衡量两者竞争最直观的指标,双方工程师或者高管跳槽到对方的情况很容易统计。而这方面的竞争呈一边倒的趋势。Facebook内部从高管到底层实习生,来自谷歌的人比比皆是,其中就包括谷歌原社交项目研究员亚当斯。在Facebook的11位高管中,有4位来自谷歌,包括现任COO谢丽尔•桑德伯格以及负责广告和运营业务的大卫•菲舍尔。

    但这些数据只不过是双方竞争的缩影。早在2007年,双方的竞争便已拉开序幕,随后便愈演愈烈。Facebook有什么致命武器?它是硅谷最炙手可热的公司,同时在未来上市后可以创造大批百万富翁,这些是它吸引人才的王牌。而谷歌则投入巨额资金予以还击。一位曾亲身经历双方人才争夺战的高管表示,谷歌甚至许诺,如果顶尖的工程师或高管留守公司,他们将可获得超过价值1,000万美元的股票和现金。很快,这些消息不胫而走,许多谷歌员工理所当然会采取行动:他们先拿到Facebook 的入职通知,然后转过头来以此要求谷歌大幅加薪。近期从谷歌跳槽的一位高管说:“这种情况就造成了一种‘非谷歌式’的环境。人们开始‘良禽择木而栖’。”于是在今年1月,谷歌推出了不同的措施,给所有员工全部加薪10%,并且将大部分员工的奖金计入基础工资。由此,许多谷歌员工的薪金增加了15%,甚至20%。

    如果说在人才争夺战中,谷歌处于守势,在吸引用户眼球方面它则是攻势如潮,其最有力的武器是在互联网领域的主导地位。例如,经过90天的试运行后,今年9月份,Google+完全向用户开放,而谷歌为此采取的推广措施连一些大公司都艳羡不已:谷歌在其主页上放置了一个大大的蓝色箭头,将数千万用户引导至Google+图标,使Google+的流量迅猛上升。除主页外,谷歌还计划在Gmail、谷歌地图以及YouTube等服务的庞大用户群中不分昼夜地推广Google+,并将Google+服务整合到数百万台Android手机中。Twitter首席执行官迪克•科斯托罗也表示:“毋庸置疑,Google+肯定会吸引到大量用户。”

    Facebook最担心的自然便是谷歌吸引用户的能力。尽管Facebook的高管多年以来一直表示,他们有信心在公平竞争环境中击败谷歌,但他们也担心微软之前的一幕将会重演,即谷歌并不会与Facebook公平竞争,而是会利用其在互联网领域的主导地位来推广Google+。而且在谷歌网站上推广Google+不仅非常有效,而且也无可非议。但如果谷歌利用其搜索引擎来力推Google+并打压其他社交网站服务,则可能产生争议。虽然谷歌还未采取这种措施来推广Google+,但它之前在推广谷歌地图等其他服务时便曾这样做过,导致竞争对手大呼不平。如果谷歌今后希望采取这种措施,必须三思而行,因为公司已经在接受政府的反垄断调查。而在移动领域,谷歌可能在Android手机和平板电脑上内置多个Google+功能,进而增加对手的竞争难度。

    But the boldest move at F8 was not Zuckerberg's flashy redesign but rather deeper social integration with other services like Netflix (NFLX) and Spotify. To register for Spotify, newcomers must now use their Facebook credentials. The upside is that you can find and listen to your friends' playlists on Spotify or on Facebook directly. The downside is your musical tastes are revealed to the world (i.e., Sean Parker is listening to Florence + the Machine). This new stream of social data could prove invaluable over time. Until now, although many web publishers offered users the option to publish their actions -- articles they read, shoes they buy -- on Facebook, most people took a pass. In the new model, sharing becomes opt-out rather than opt-in, and Facebook could become the sudden recipient of a good deal more information about what we do online. Eventually, the company could use the data to sell even more targeted ads both on and off the site. If Google's AdWords and AdSense are the de facto tools for helping advertisers reach large numbers of people who know what they're looking for, social ads will be the tool for helping people discover new things.

The war

    One day in late October, tech blogs started buzzing about the latest bit of news on the social web: Zuckerberg had lost his place as the most followed Google+ user. Who edged him out? None other than Larry Page. Trivial, perhaps, but it's hard not to think that the news lit up smiles across the Googleplex. Neither Google nor Facebook likes to talk about competing with each other (and neither company would make their CEOs available for this story), but battles are raging on multiple fronts, and both sides celebrate even the smallest victory.

    Nowhere is keeping score easier than in the battle for talent, where every engineer or executive who defects from one company or the other is easily tabulated. On that front the battle has been a lopsided affair. Look through the ranks of Facebook, from upper management to lowly interns, and you'll bump into ex-Googlers like Adams, the social researcher, at every turn. Four of Facebook's 11 top executives hail from Google, including COO Sheryl Sandberg and David Fischer, the advertising and operations chief.

    These numbers, however, don't tell the full story of a battle that began as far back as 2007 and has only intensified since. Facebook's weapons of choice? Its cachet as the hottest Valley company -- and its potential to mint millionaires when it finally goes public. Google has fought back with money, lots of it. In some cases Google offered top engineers or execs more than $10 million in equity and cash if they stayed, said an executive directly involved in the talent wars. Word spread quickly, and many Googlers did what rational people would do: They got an offer from Facebook just so they could get a big raise at Google. "It created an un-Googley environment," says a senior manager who left Google recently. "They like to be merit-based." So in January, Google tried a different approach: It lavished a giant 10% raise on its entire workforce. It also shifted a large chunk of employee bonuses into base pay. As a result, many people saw their paychecks increase by 15% or even 20%.

    But if Google is playing defense on the talent war, it is clearly playing offense in the battle for eyeballs. Its most powerful weapon is its status as the dominant Internet company. In September, for example, when it opened up Google+ to everyone, following a 90-day trial period, it unleashed the kind of promotion that even the biggest brands would envy: A large blue arrow on its homepage pointed the tens of millions who visit it daily to a Google+ tab. Traffic on the site spiked immediately. In addition to Google.com, Google plans to promote Google+, day in and day out, to the hundreds of millions of people who use services like Gmail, Maps, and YouTube; and to weave it into millions of Android handsets. Says Dick Costolo, the chief executive of Twitter: "There is no doubt they are going to be able to pull in massive numbers of users."

    Naturally, it's Google's power to pull in those users that worries Facebook the most. For years executives there have said that they are confident they can beat Google on a level playing field. But they fear that, like Microsoft in an earlier era, Google will use its power to peddle Google+, and not always fairly. Some tactics, like promotions on Google.com, are effective and uncontroversial. Others, like Google's ability to use its search engine to promote Google+ ahead of other social services, could prove more problematic. Google has not yet done so with Google+, but it has done just that with other services, like its maps, prompting rivals to cry foul. Google may think twice before engaging in such tactics, as it is already under a government antitrust investigation. Yet with mobile as the next battleground, Google may also find ways to build many Google+ features right into Android phones and tablets, making it harder for rivals to compete.

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