The biggest difference between Google and Facebook — explained by someone who has worked at both (GOOG, FB)
Google and Facebook are two of the biggest and best-known technology companies you can work for in Silicon Valley.
Each company is known for their perks and giant sprawling campuses, but, as it turns out, the culture in each company is quite different.
Paul Adams, the vice president of product at Intercom, worked at Google for three years, between 2007 and 2010, before leaving for Facebook, where he worked between 2011 and 2013.
There are some similarities between Google and Facebook — they're both technology companies that build products to help people communicate with one another and easily find information.
But they think in completely different ways, says Adams.
"So the biggest difference for me was that Google is very much engineering driven — solving hard engineering technology problems — whereas Facebook was a means to an end," Adams told Business Insider. "They are very much more a social psychology company, trying to build richer ways for people to communicate."
Yes, Facebook has made some "phenomenal engineering accomplishments," according to Adams, but that's not Facebook's mission.
The "things that they talk about and get excited about often are around human communication and the psychology of it," he said.
Facebook, for example, would think about how people communicate in the way that a social psychology class might, as Adams says:
You often think about villages or communities or towns from 100 years ago, where things are very small and gossip spreads fast. And everyone knew everyone else, people left the doors unlocked at night, and talk about that and how life has changed and then try and figure out what that means for Facebook. Like, what does it mean to create that sense of community using a technology like Facebook?
That is not how Google views communication, according to Adams, who helped invent the Circles concept that became one of the core features for Google+. The conversations at Google surrounding Google+ involved figuring out what type of algorithms and rankings.
"People are thinking, ‘How do we get our content in the stream? Rank the stream? Have an algorithm for the stream?’" Adams said. "Whereas, the kind of conversations I had at Facebook a whole bunch of times around Newsfeed, which is the same thing, were much different."
Since Adams left Facebook for Intercom in May 2013, the social network furthered its big push into mobile by beefing up its Messenger platform and acquiring companies like WhatsApp.
Last month, Facebook expanded Messenger into a platform that lets its users interact with businesses, too, by being able to monitor things like package-tracking numbers for shipping companies directly from the chat app.
Intercom is launching a new product in the same category called Acquire — a live chat tool that makes it easier for businesses to chat with customers directly through their website.
Messaging and social networks, according to Adams, were in Facebook's DNA from the beginning, while they were a separate initiative at Google.
"One of the arguments that I used to make a lot at Google is that ‘Social’ is not a thing," Adams said. "Human beings are social. We are just social creatures. It’s part and parcel of what we do."
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