The rivalry between Google and Facebook heated up to almost volcanic proportions on Thursday after it emerged that the social networking giant had hired a PR company to spread an anti-Google whisper campaign in the US media.
USA Today first broke the story that a firm had hired top PR company Burson-Marstellar to pitch anti-Google stories to bloggers and members of influential media outlets. However, the identity of said firm remained a secret until Dan Lyons - aka the Real Steve Jobs - outed Facebook in a Daily Beast story on Thursday.
"Confronted with evidence, a Facebook spokesman last night confirmed that Facebook hired Burson, citing two reasons," he wrote.
"First, because it believes Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns; second, and perhaps more important, because Facebook resents Google's attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service."
The service itself is Social Circle, a little-known feature of Gmail which, to be honest, not a lot of people really care about, yet it shows Facebook's extreme sensitivity in this area.
The whole mess is hugely embarrassing for the PR company involved, seeing as it charges an awful lot of money to its clients - many of them Fortune 100-type tech companies - to improve their media relations.
However, it's even worse for Facebook. Why would a market-leading, nay dominating, firm spend so much time and money on a high risk strategy trying to spread muck about its rivals?
The picture became a little clearer when V3.co.uk saw a member of the Google UK comms team tweet earlier today: "If this is true, I'm really disappointed in FB, not least because a lot of their comms team is ex-Google."
This tweet has since been taken down but reveals an interesting twist to the rivalry between the two firms.
However, despite Google's new chief executive Larry Page telling all employees that 25 per cent of their bonuses would be based on how well Google performs in social media, the firm is so far behind Facebook on that front it would have to buy its rival to get anywhere.
Whatever happens, it's probably not the last time we'll be writing about the rivalry between Google and Facebook. At least life at the tech coal face is rarely dull.
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