Google's (GOOG) social network has come under fire lately. First, there's the ongoing fact that it's not The Social Network (Facebook (FB)). Second, some people, ex-Googlers included, are having trouble remembering that Google's customers have always been advertisers, not users - just like an ex-Goldman Sachs (GS) employee seems to have forgotten that it was always Goldman's job to rob clients. Google is not Facebook, and Google does not answer directly to its users, so let's forget these expectations. People are too hard on Google+.
With that said, Google+ lacks some je nas sais quoi. Now, Google has taken a step to fix this, with the acquisition of Kevin Rose and team in a bidding war with Facebook. Kevin Rose is the founder of Digg, and more recently, Oink. There are two reasons I find his talent material to Google's prospects versus Facebook:
One: Digg helped pioneer the routing of Internet traffic. Recent news has shown social networks driving more discovery than search engines. Apparently search engines are for learning more about something you're thinking about, and social is for receiving something new to think about. Convergence of the two mediums creates an ongoing free-for-all, and Google is bringing in Rose to help revamp discovery.
Two: Oink was in line with services like Spotify, which are based on a strategy of building infrastructure. Such infrastructure ("plumbing") allows crowd-sourced sharing to offer search-engine-level dexterity. If you look at Yelp.com (YELP), which reviews businesses, it doesn't have the level of sensitivity that Oink promised, as Oink reviewed individual products and services within businesses. With the brains behind Oink joining Google, the landscape of competition in social discovery is re-lit.
I think Facebook is The Social Network. I don't see that changing soon. But I also think Google is The Internet Middleman. Rose is going to help the broker be a little more social.
Many have been calling for Google's purchase of Pinterest. With Rose they just bought a Pinterest godfather. Now, Google can engineer something of its own, something that integrates into its ecosystem, something sexier than Google Circles. At less than half of its P/E peak five years ago, with Goldman-esque tentacles groping the future economy, Google stock is a steal.