SocialDeck is Latest Ingredient in Google’s Recipe For A Social Platform to Rival Facebook; Reviewing the List, From Aardvark to Zynga

8/31/10Follow @wroush

The latest addition to the budding Google social-and-gaming empire is SocialDeck, the maker of cross-platform social games such as Color Connect, Pet Hero MD, and Shake & Spell. The Waterloo, Ontario-based startup—which has also built a platform called Spark that lets game developers connect players on iPhones, BlackBerry devices, and Facebook—announced that it’s joining the Mountain View, CA-based search giant on its website today.

Google hasn’t yet announced the acquisition on its own blog, and terms of the acquisition haven’t been disclosed. But SocialDeck is a tiny company—comprised principally of co-founders Anish Acharya and Jeson Patel and CEO Dan Servos—and what really makes this acquisition interesting is its context.

In recent months Google has been snapping up a series of companies in the social networking and social gaming areas, including Israeli game maker LabPixies, San Francisco-based virtual goods startup Jambool, Palo Alto, CA-based Angstro, and, most prominently, San Francisco-based social application developer Slide. There were also widespread reports earlier this summer—unconfirmed by Google, so far—that the search company invested $100 million to $200 million in San Francisco social gaming juggernaut Zynga.

Slide founder Max Levchin, who first gained fame as the co-founder of PayPal, is reportedly in charge of building a new social networking platform for Google, under the code name “Google Me.” If such a platform exists—and if Google hopes to offer credible competition for Facebook, whose seemingly unstoppable growth could eventually threaten the search giant’s dominance of the Web—then Levchin will need to surpass the company’s limited success with earlier social software projects like Orkut, Google Buzz, and Google Wave.

So far Google has said very little about its social software plans, although there was a hint of what’s to come in the company’s statement on the Slide acquisition. “Slide has already created compelling social experiences for tens of millions of people across many platforms, and we’ve already built strong social elements into products like Gmail, Docs, Blogger, Picasa, and YouTube,” the company said. “As the Slide team joins Google, we’ll be investing even more to make Google services socially aware and expand these capabilities for our users across the Web.”

So, what might Google be cooking up with Google Me? It’s impossible to say for sure. But here’s a summary of some of the ingredients it’s probably working with, including the newest one, SocialDeck. This isn’t intended as a comprehensive list; if you have additions, please leave a comment or send me a note at wroush@xconomy.com. In alphabetical order:

Aardvark—Google acquired this social search service in February for a reported $50 million. Created by a group of ex-Googlers, the tool allows users to submit questions in plain English, which are then forwarded to the people in their social networks (including their Facebook friends) who are mostly likely to have a useful answer. Aardvark is still live on the Web at vark.com and is also part of Google Labs. It would be odd if a future Google social networking platform did not include some kind of socially-enhanced search feature, and Aardvark could provide the pattern for it.

Adams, Paul—a senior user experience researcher for Google, Adams posted an enormously lengthy and revealing slide deck on Google’s view of the social Web earlier this summer. Adams noted that our digital identities and social networks are increasingly following us across the Web, and that we’re getting more and more information from each other, rather than from search engines, businesses, or websites. But one problem with existing online social networks like Facebook, Adams wrote, is that they “don’t match the social networks we already have offline”—they lump everyone into … Next Page »

Wade Roush is Xconomy's chief correspondent and editor of Xconomy San Francisco. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/wroush/ Wade Roush

    Update: Just came across a nice AdAge article on this same theme: Google Sees Facebook Threat in String of Deals. It includes an informative chart showing most of Google’s acquisitions since February.