Google Will Get Social -- or Else

Of all that we know about new Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) CEO Larry Page -- that he co-created PageRank, that he's a billionaire, that he borrowed a Caribbean island from Richard Branson to get married in 2007 -- one fact matters most: He's afraid of Facebook.

Or at least, that's how it looks. Last week, Business Insider reported that Page has tied bonuses for all Google employees to the success of a strategy to "integrate relationships, sharing and identity." No other specifics were included in the memo cited.

The new +1 social search tool is probably part of the effort. Google's rumored "Circles" social network could also play a role. Either way, it's clear from Big G's actions that Facebook tops Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) , and Android adversary Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) on Page's list of targets.

You know what? Good. Say what you will about crazy social media valuations, but Facebook is winning investments from the likes of Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) because the underlying business is profitable, and growing four times as fast as cloud computing poster child salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM  ) .

Page knows this. For all his inexperience with running a global business, he's not naive enough to underestimate Facebook's threat. Make Facebook's social search good enough, and you sharply reduce the need for Google's algorithmic aikido. Make relevant ad delivery real-time, as Facebook is reportedly working on now, and you've all but eliminated the need to leave The Social Network for Google's white search fields.

In this sense, Page's call for action against Facebook reminds me of Bill Gates' mid-'90s rallying cry to defeat Netscape. Back then, Mr. Softy's aggressive action against Netscape Navigator led to a federal antitrust case. Today, the feds are already looking at Google. So be it. Page has no choice but to go after Facebook. Offering employees a cash bounty for social success is as good a place as any to start.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think about Google's social stature and Facebook's competitive positioning using the comments box below.

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Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google and salesforce.com are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended members create a bull call spread position in Apple and a diagonal call position in Microsoft. Motley Fool Alpha LLC owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft and has written Apple puts. The Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy wonders if a social butterfly would spin a cocoon.


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