Zuckerberg: Social Is Not A Layer You Add (*Cough* Google *Cough*)

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Earlier this afternoon, we posted our most recent interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The talk is full of gems of information, such as Facebook’s thoughts about social phones. But a more general statement Zuckerberg made about socialness is also very interesting. Because he seems to be taking a direct shot at Google.

Even the companies that are starting to come around to thinking, ‘oh maybe we should do some social stuff’’, I still think a lot of them are only thinking about it on a surface layer,” Zuckerberg says. “It’s like ‘OK, I have my product, maybe I’ll add two or three social features and we’ll check that box’,” he continues. “That’s not what social is.

You have to design it in from the ground up,” is how Zuckerberg sees it. He cites Zynga and Quora as two companies doing this correctly. “They’ve designed their whole product around the idea that your friends will be here with you,” he says.

One company he doesn’t mention as doing this correctly is Google. In fact, the entire part about adding social as a layer seems to be a shot at them. Recent comments by Google CEO Eric Schmidt directly state that Google’s forthcoming social strategy will be about adding a social layer to existing products. “Google Me is not a product, it’s a social layer across all products,” Schmidt said at Google’s Zeitgeist event a couple weeks ago.

So it looks like Facebook and Google are going to agree to disagree on the concept of social as a layer versus social as a foundation. So far, clearly, Facebook is winning this argument.

Here’s the key blurb from Zuckerberg in context:

One thing that I think is really important — that I think is context for this, is that I generally think that most other companies now are undervaluing how important social integration is. Right, so even the companies that are starting to come around to thinking, ‘oh maybe we should do some social stuff’, I still think a lot of them are only thinking about it on a surface layer, where it’s like “OK, I have my product, maybe I’ll add two or three social features and we’ll check that box”. That’s not what social is. Social is. You have to design it in from the ground up. These experiences like what Zynga is doing or what a company like Quora is doing, I think that they have just a really good social integration. They’ve designed their whole product around the idea that your friends will be here with you. Everyone has a real identity for themselves. And those are fundamental building blocks. Now, I don’t know how long it’s going to take to get the mobile environments that you see today to a state where you can build really robust social applications on top of it. So that’s the biggest driving force for us — to try to work with these folks and see how deep we can get on our own to make sure that we can build that plumbing. Our goal is to make it exist.

That last bit seems to imply Facebook’s work on diving deep within Android to make it fundamentally more social. Thanks to the open nature of that platform, Facebook can do that. Too bad Google itself isn’t open.

[photo: flickr/steve damron]

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