Google vs. Facebook: This time it's personal

Is this town big enough for two massive social networks? Apparently Facebook doesn't think so

It appears the Google+/Facebook wars are on in earnest.

Case du jour: Late last week, U.K. Web designer Michael Lee Johnson decided he wanted more of his Facebook friends to join his Google+ account, so he created an ad for it using Facebook's self-serve ad network. It ran for all of an hour before Facebook responded -- not merely by pulling that ad, but by canceling all of Johnson's other Facebook ads and killing his advertising account.

[ Also on Don't be fooled by Cringely's Facebook face slaps; he thinks Google+ is mostly a minus too. | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter and follow Cringely on Twitter. ]

Johnson posted the response he got from Facebook on -- where else? -- Google+:

Your account has been disabled. All of your adverts have been stopped and should not be run again on the site under any circumstances. Generally, we disable an account if too many of its adverts violate our Terms of Use or Advertising guidelines. Unfortunately we cannot provide you with the specific violations that have been deemed abusive. Please review our Terms of Use and Advertising guidelines if you have any further questions.

Touchy, touchy. It appears Mr. Johnson ran afoul of item No. 6 ("Refusal of ads") in Facebook's advertising guidelines; to wit:

We may refuse ads at any time for any reason, including our determination that they promote competing products or services or negatively affect our business or relationship with our users.

Nice. Given that Facebook is trying to get into all kinds of ancillary businesses -- like video streaming and financial transactions, to name but two -- it will be interesting to see how Facebook defines "competing products or services" down the road.

Still, nowhere in that document does it say "create an ad for a competitor and we'll kill your account." Think Facebook is panicking just a bit? I think Zuckerberg is sweating even profusely than usual.

And now, by killing Johnson's ad, Facebook has just created about 10,000 times more publicity for him (and its apparent insecurity over G+) than it would have by running the ad. As I write this, outlets from the L.A. Times to Technology Review to CNET are running a story about it.

This is not the first time Facebook tried to screw Google and ended up intercoursing itself. A couple weeks back it blocked a tool called Facebook Friend Exporter that would make it easier to move your Facebook posse over to G+. That tool worked just fine for more than six months prior to the launch of G+ and for less than a week afterward. Coincidence? We think not. And all that block succeeded in doing was making Facebook look petty.

Meanwhile, remember MySpace Tom? You know, the co-founder and default friend of everyone? He still hasn't changed that damned T-shirt yet. He also just posted an essay on TechCrunch proclaiming his love of G+ and urging the Googlers to not do what Facebook has done: create pervasive filtering algorithms that hide the stuff posted by your actual friends and instead constantly display dreck from people you wouldn't be able to pick out of a police lineup. (I'm paraphrasing here just a bit.)

To me, that wasn't the interesting bit. He also said this:

I'm rooting for Zuckerberg & Co. as much as I am for Google. I want to see more distinct networks thrive. I don't think social networking is a zero sum game. I suspect that people believe that social networking is a "winner take all" endeavor, because they mistakenly assume people "left MySpace for Facebook." Facebook didn't kill Myspace; MySpace "committed suicide" through continual mismanagement. (For what it's worth, I include myself in that group of mismanagers and I don't mean to blame any single individual—the troubles were tremendous.  I'll explain it somewhere else, someday.) Likewise, MySpace did not "kill Friendster"—Friendster had its own set of problems. If they'd been corrected, I believe both MySpace and Facebook would have thrived as different types of social networks.

So there you have it. Even everyone's MySpace friend believes there is room in the world for more than one massive social network. So why doesn't Mark Zuckerberg?

Is this town big enough for both Google+ and Facebook? Does everything have to be a zero-sum game? Post your thoughts below (add comment) or email me:

This article, "Google vs. Facebook: This time it's personal," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.