Facebook’s news feed makes it look like a content aggregator. Now Google Reader is starting to look more a like a social network. The world’s leading RSS reader now copies features from the world’s leading social network: people search and “like” buttons. The people search feature is itself powered by something else that’s very Facebookish: Google Profiles.
This isn’t Google Reader’s first step into social networking. Google Reader users have long been able to share content with each other. Join a blog on Google Friend Connect, and it shows up in Google Reader. Once again, we see the different approaches these companies take to the Web: Facebook starts with people and moves to content, while Google starts with content and moves to people.
We all know which approach advertisers prefer right now. Google makes billions matching ads to content, while Facebook is still trying to figure out how to match ads to people (Beacon fiasco, anyone?). Even in that area, Google is starting to match ads to people through behavioral targeting.
Thing is, advertisers go where people go. We must ask which approach people prefer right now. Do people prefer discovering connections through content, or content through connections? Google Reader’s social experimentation should help answer that question.