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Google Misses You


Last winter, Google made a run at Facebook and fell flat, fast. Google Buzz, the social network it tried to build around its popular Gmail service, failed to live up to its name: it drew only a small fraction of Gmail's more than 100 million users, and it prompted a privacy scare and a lawsuit. But Google didn't give up. Instead, the company is trying again, on a much bigger scale. It has spent hundreds of millions of dollars buying Web companies and luring talent in hopes of stopping, or at least slowing, Facebook's dominance in online social networking. (The project has been dubbed "Google Me," according to people in Silicon Valley who claim inside knowledge.)

Why would Google--the Web's most profitable public company, an organization that has had no difficulty increasing its commissions from online advertising--have it in for Facebook? It's this simple: Facebook, from the start, has locked Google's Web-crawling robots away from its exclusive club of 500 million members. Just try to search for yourself or anyone else who you know is on Facebook. Google probably won't deliver more than a skimpy profile page whose goal seems to be to get you intrigued enough to sign up for Facebook yourself. Facebook lets members reconfigure their accounts to open their photos and personal information to Google, but it prevents search engines from indexing individual status updates, the site's core content.


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