Facebook, Google & Beyond: Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz & Ben Elowitz of Wetpaint Debate the Future of Information and Relationships

6/2/11Follow @curtwoodward

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in consumer life, a period he’s been reminded about while reading the new book “In the Plex” by journalist Steven Levy.

BEN ELOWITZ: “It’s turning into this exploited commons that then gets so dirty over time that it’s actually stopped serving a use … Remember how magical it was when it came out, because it just knew what the right answer was?

And now I feel like anything that could be commercially gamed, when I type it in, I’m not getting the right answer, I’m getting everybody fighting for it. And what’s worse is when I actually click a page, it’s filled with a bunch of crap that’s for Google’s benefit, not for mine. Google used to try to be a proxy for, what did people really want?”

RAND FISHKIN: “I think one of the most exciting developments in search improvement is actually the melding of social signals and search results. I’m sure you’ve seen Google’s Social Circle results, which I think is the best thing in the world.

Basically, it’ll be like, ‘Oh, you follow me on Twitter, or we’re friends on Facebook,’ so if you’ve shared something on Facebook, that will actually rank higher in the search results and it’ll say ‘Ben Elowitz shared this.’ I think that’s just so brilliant, and I think that’s a real key to the future.

BE: “What really gets to be interesting—this is where I think Facebook’s going to go—is when you start saying, now we have a complete profile of you and people like you, so we know that a tech entrepreneur in Seattle looking for a meetup about SEO is already predisposed to looking for Seattle. We know that when you’re searching for hotels in Israel, you’re likely looking for ones that are going to be four-star (rather) than three-star, because we know your patterns. I don’t think Google’s going to know anybody’s patterns nearly as well as Facebook.”

RF: “There’s a little creepy factor there, but I’ll agree that it could make it more relevant.”

BE: “Well, it may be creepy, but it’s actually better for the user. Really, the nice thing about Facebook is they actually say, ‘Hey, we’re here as a utility to do whatever we can to make your life better, to connect with other people, to share stuff.’”

RF: “And you shouldn’t have privacy anyway! Privacy is dead!” (Laughter)

BE: “Oh, they’re misunderstood.”

RF: “Poor Zuck. It must suck.”

Two main statistics kept popping up: Search is still growing by all kinds of measures, but Facebook is gaining a huge share of the time people spend online. Elowitz also brought up anecdotal examples of Facebook as a primary means for young people of sorting their information—even though … Next Page »

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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    I have to admit that the idea of organising people into groups I find very compelling. Right at the moment I don’t share my facebook page with business contacts. I suspect many others have the same issues that a facebook page is about your social life and you quite possibly don’t want to mix that with your business life. I think there may be a cultural aspect to this as well. In the US I think there is less of a divide between private and business life, here in the UK I think we tend to have a firmer divide. Whether that’s a good or bad thing who’s to say but it does impact how we view applications like Facebook from a business standpoint.

    I’m going to be signing up for a Google+ account because I think this is a bold experiment from Google and I’m fascinated to see how it turns out.

    Best regards,