Google today announced an upcoming change to its terms of service that will let the company add users’ names and photos to certain parts of its advertising as of November 11. Make no mistake: this is a direct attack against Facebook.

One of the few advantages of Google+ is that it features no ads. To be perfectly clear, Google isn’t changing that. Google+ will still have a clean interface, at least for the foreseeable future. Instead, Google is tying Google+ into yet another one of its properties, and arguably its most important one: Google Ads.

In other words, Google is making its own version of Facebook’s ads. They’re called shared endorsements.

It’s all about kneecapping Facebook’s growth

The larger majority of revenue generated by both Google and Facebook comes from advertising. Facebook’s threat to Google has always been that anyone who advertises online will consider running social ads rather than search ads, or at least split its budget between the two.

Facebook’s growth in advertising, while strong, has not significantly cut into Google’s revenues yet. The search company is still very much an online ad money-making machine (which is exactly what lets it dive into so many different industries with various free offerings).

Nevertheless, Facebook’s advertising revenues continue to explode. Furthermore, in its last quarterly earnings, the company showed 30 percent of its ad revenue is coming from mobile, a huge figure that has been pushing its stock up ever since it was revealed.

Monetizing mobile is something everyone in the tech industry is interested in. Given that Google is all about ads, it is definitely no exception. Hence shared endorsements.

Launching Google+ to take on Facebook is one thing. Adding Google+ to Google Ads to take on Facebook’s business is something else entirely.

What’s the difference between the two?

Not much. In fact, Google is essentially copying Facebook’s strategy for its own ads. The main difference is that Google has many more products and thus many more places on the Web to put ads. Facebook is serving ads mainly on its service, though the company could one day start to slowly expand to the broader Web.

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Here’s how Google describes shared endorsements:

  • You’re in control: Your content is only shared when you choose, and shared endorsements don’t impact who can see your content or activity.
  • To help your friends and others find cool stuff online, your activity (such as reviews, +1s, follows, shares, etc.) may be used along with your name and photo in commercial or other promotional contexts.
  • When it comes to shared endorsements in ads, you can choose whether your name and photo may be used to help your friends find stuff you love (and avoid stuff you don’t).
  • The name and photo shown in shared endorsements are the public profile name and photo you have chosen on Google+.

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Here’s how Facebook describes its social ads:

  • Social ads show an advertiser’s message alongside actions you have taken, such as liking a Page.
  • Your privacy settings apply to social ads.
  • We don’t sell your information to advertisers.
  • Only confirmed friends can see your actions alongside an ad.
  • If a photo is used, it is your profile photo and not from your photo albums.

They’re not identical, but that’s simply because Google+ and Facebook’s social network aren’t the same, and of course Google is just getting started. This is the beginning of a very big experiment to see if the company can beat Facebook at its own game.

Opt out of both

To opt out of Google’s shared endorsements, click here, and scroll to the bottom of the page. Uncheck the “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads.” option and hit the blue Save button. It is currently unchecked by default, but Google will set this option to checked by default on November 11, so make sure to come back and uncheck it if you don’t want to participate.

To opt out of Facebook’s social ads, click here, and hit the second Edit link beside “Ads & Friends.” Beside “Pair my social actions with ads for” choose “No one” from the drop-down menu and hit the blue “Save Changes” button.

Top Image Credit: Miguel Saavedra