This is already few weeks old, but as I read it I am just outraged and have to let it out and express my thoughts…Google was attacked by Facebook. I have no other way to describe it… According to reports by multiple sources that were also confirmed by Facebook, they hired Burson-Marsteller, a PR firm, to start a backstage negative campaign against Google. This is the kind of a negative propaganda you would expect from really dark conglomerates in some bad novels. Not something you would expect from a young, innovative, hyped company.
The plot was as follow: Behind the scenes, via a third party (Burson-Marsteller, the PR firm) they contact bloggers, reporters and other individuals with media influence, and suggested that they look into alleged privacy breaches performed by Google. One of these bloggers, Christopher Soghoian, did not agree to cooperate and published the entire email correspondence with Burson-Marsteller (see here). The entire story was published at USA Today, Wall Street Journal and many others. Forcing Facebook to take responsibility for their action and hopefully stop the campaign (and this is not like their privacy handling is perfect…).
Now when you read all of this, you can reflect back and wonder if this is a campaign that just started or was it something that ran already for a while. Could some of the publications published in recent months around Google and privacy were actually due to this kind of methods? How much of the claims was real, how much exaggerations, and how much completely not true? Can the public opinion be manipulated so easily?
This is another escalation in the on-going rivalry between Google and Facebook. It is a battle of prestige. Facebook, the new comer, did to Google what Google did to Microsoft not so long ago, they made the incumbent vendor look dated. In this case, Google is lagging in the social media arena and even things like YouTube and enormous investments in other social tools are not able to change this trajectory.
It is also a battle on money. A lot of money. Facebook now has more face time with consumers than Google, and that is quickly influencing the online advertising business. Revenue and market share are changing hands and are going Facebook way. In that context one can just wonder why on earth they need the dirty tricks. My only hope that Facebook will view this as a painful but critically enlightening lesson and that they will copy some of the old but never dated Google mantra – “do no evil”.