为了实现这个目标，谷歌并不需要打败Facebook，但它必须坐上社交领域名副其实的第二把交椅。如果说把谷歌与Facebook的关系比作赫兹租车公司（Hertz，全球最大的租车公司——译注）与安飞士汽车租赁公司(Avis，全球第二大租车公司——译注)，或许很离谱。搜索引擎技术网站Search Engine Land的编辑丹尼•苏利文称：“就目前的形势来看，谷歌更像是富田租车公司（Thrifty Car Rental）。”要爬到第二位，谷歌需要在社交领域加大投入。例如，今年10月，一家科技博客网站报道称，包括执行董事长埃里克•施密特在内的多位谷歌高管自己都还没有开通Google+账户。几天后，施密特的账户便悄然出现在Google+上。此外，谷歌还需要其他推动力，那就是提供不同于Facebook的价值定位，说服大量用户转投其阵营，或至少是同时成为这两家社交网站的活跃用户。目前，我们还无法知晓在Google+的4,000万账户中，有多少用户在实际使用该网站。谷歌自然不会透露这一数据。当被问及用户为什么应转投Google+时，谷歌高管一再表示，传统的在线共享功能已被颠覆（这话还是去跟Facebook的8亿用户说吧），而通过圈子功能，Google+用户可以分享他们在真实世界的任何活动（但Facebook现在也具备了这项功能）。
That last point is not lost on Zuckerberg. It has prompted him to seek closer ties with Google's biggest rival in mobile: Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500). The two companies have held multiple rounds of discussions, according to people with knowledge of the talks. But they have yet to find a compelling way to collaborate, perhaps because their courtship got off to a rocky start. Last year Facebook rebuffed Apple's attempt to connect Ping, a new social network built around iTunes, with Facebook, purportedly for technical reasons. It was a rare public rebuke for Apple, and Steve Jobs personally called some reporters to voice his displeasure. That Apple chose to bake Twitter, not Facebook, into the most recent version of its mobile operating system has not helped. Still, the two companies continue to talk, knowing full well that an alliance could help them fend off a common enemy.
We know what you're probably thinking: If this is a war, who's going to win? The answer is not straightforward. Google has two goals with social media: One is to slow the momentum of Facebook; the other is to use data from Google+ to improve things like search, maps, and ads. Both Gundotra and Page say the latter goal is the more important one. "We can make search better," Gundotra says. "We can make YouTube and Gmail better. We can make our ads more relevant." He later adds: "Google+ will touch every aspect of Google."
To meet its goals, Google doesn't need to best Facebook, but it needs to become a credible No. 2. Think Avis to Facebook's Hertz. That's a ways off. "At this point, it's more like Thrifty Car Rental," says Danny Sullivan, the editor of Search Engine Land. To get there, Google needs to drink even more of the social Kool-Aid than it has. Consider this: In October a tech blog reported that several top Google officials, including Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman, had not even set up their own accounts on Google+. A few days later Schmidt's account quietly appeared on the site. Google also needs something else: a value proposition that is different from Facebook's and that compels users to switch in large numbers -- or at least to be active on both sites. At this point, it is not clear how many of the 40 million people with Google+ accounts actually use the site. Google won't say. And when asked why anyone should switch to Google+, executives there say again and again that online sharing is broken (tell that to Facebook's 800 million members) and that with Circles, Google+ users can share as they do in the real world (never mind that Facebook has matched that capability).
For Facebook, the early successes of Google+ mean Zuckerberg can no longer afford to screw up. In the past, Facebook's frequent product missteps and privacy snafus were by and large forgiven or forgotten. From now on, Google+ will stand at the ready, more than happy to welcome any disgruntled Facebook users -- not to mention their friends. In other words, as he soldiers on, Zuckerberg must now keep an eye on Page and his troops. Yes, Zuckerberg may feel good about Facebook's gaping lead in users and about having poached dozens of Google's prized brainiacs. But Page has had no problem replenishing Google's ranks. In the most recent quarter, Google added nearly 2,600 employees. That's almost as many people as work at Facebook, and they have a clear mandate: to turn Google into a superpower of the social web.