Google’s battle against Facebook and other social networks took on a new dimension May 30 with the launch of Google+ Local, which incorporates assets from the search engine giant’s Zagat acquisition.
Google acquired Zagat in September 2011, and seemed pretty open about its intention to mine the company’s enormous trove of consumer data. At the time of the acquisition, Zagat had information on restaurants and other local offerings in more than 100 cities. Now, those Zagat scores and summaries will appear on local Google+ pages.
Google+ Local will also include reviews and uploaded photos from friends and contacts in the user’s Google+ circles. The “Local” tab is present on the left rail of the Google+ profile page.
Google, Microsoft and other tech titans remain interested in incorporating social elements into search and cloud-based apps. For example, FUSE Labs (the Microsoft incubator started by then-Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie) has spent considerable time on initiatives such as Docs.com, which gives Facebook users the ability to create and share Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents with .PDF support. Microsoft has also baked Facebook data into Bing search results, in a move that many analysts and pundits saw as a response to Google’s “Search Plus Your World” initiative.
That’s not Google’s only big announcement this week. The company rolled out some improvements to its Chrome OS line May 29, along with a new Chromebook laptop and Chromebox desktop unit from Samsung. Google has revamped the cloud-centric operating system with several new features, including Google Drive incorporated with a File Manager for offline file access. The Chrome Web Store offers access to Kindle Cloud Reader, Netflix and other apps.
Whether or not Chrome OS succeeds as a cloudy alternative to Windows and Mac OS X—or at least manages to steal a little bit more market share from those two well-entrenched platforms, certainly Google is competing more fiercely against its rivals on a number of fronts. Its Google Apps is struggling with Office 365 and other cloud-based productivity software for business users’ minds and wallets; its Google+ initiative hopes to become a viable alternative to Facebook; and Google search wants to maintain its dominance against Bing.
Whether or not all those products survive is an open question. But Google evidently sees local and personal results as a way to help it succeed in the cloud.