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The “Will Facebook be the new Google” argument

February 11, 2010

I’ve seen some mumblings on the Internet that Facebook, the 400 million member social giant, will be the new Google.

I’m not entirely sure why they have to compete, but with talk that Facebook might create a browser or a phone — things Google already had, it’s worth taking a look at Google.

Search engines have always been tools. Even back in the day, we didn’t say I’m searching on, or We just said Yahoo and Altavista.

I can remember the first time someone e-mailed me the link to (back in the day, it spread virally through e-mail). The person who e-mailed me liked it because it was clean. At the time, Yahoo, Lycos and Altavista were using search as an entry point to a portal. Search was the way people came in, and content was the reason people stayed. Before the success of Google, search engines were busy places that tried to be everything to everyone (Think the early MyYahoo, which my wife still uses).

Google changed that. We’re a search company, they said, and created a clean looking and clean working algorithm that spawned the verb, to Google.

Since then, they’ve quietly launched the following:

  • Mail.
  • Maps.
  • A phone.
  • Google Docs.
  • Google Video (and YouTube, which they own).
  • Books.
  • Finance.
  • Chrome.
  • Earth.

And that’s off the top of my head. I know they are knee-deep in SmartPhone search, and when I search on my Mobile, I use the little blue G. The point is, when they advertised in the Super Bowl, they talked about their ability to search. They didn’t show off the cool things one can do (1-800-Goog-411). They are a search company. A tool focussed on letting people find information.

So How Will Facebook out Google them?

Google makes money on context. When we search for something online, Google lets people pay to have their results in front of us. I just searched for Hardwood Floors for my living room, and along with organic results, I clicked a couple of ads.

The one thing Facebook has going for it is that when we’re logged in, Facebook knows more about us than any company ever has in the history of companies. They know our friends, our families, our patterns, our status, the things we like, the things our friends like….

If information is currency to a marketer, then Facebook holds some serious Gold.

Unless the gold gets overspent. (I know, I took that metaphor a bit too far.)

I think a lot about how the the future of the web is local. Google is trying to bring that future closer by treturning map results for things like “Cheap Lunch”. Facebook has always been a local tool. I also think that tools like Facebook work better when they work locally. The fact that it hooks me up with people I know is the thing that makes it great.

But it’s only as good as the people or brands.

If, as some people think, social media will hit a wall, the time is actually running out for Facebook. I tend to agree: Currently, the brilliance of Facebook lies in the community. I get out of it what my friends put into it. And to get the most out of it, I have to put tiome into it. You can’t partly buy into Facebook. The more you tell it, the better it will work — both now, and in the future, when it can advertise smartly to a status update.

That said, one can play in Google’s world without the phone, the browser, the documents. I can search Google without even logging into it. So to compete with Google, Facebook will have to open up the gates, and work on filtering out the noise from all the status updates, farmville, mafia family, I just joined a group, Bill is now friends with Jane posts that populate the news feed. People are starting to rant.

So Facebook has two issues:

1. When talking about Facebook, I use to call it a “Gated Community”. To compete with Google, they’ll have to open the gates.

2. They will have to figure out a way to turn down the noise, and turn up relevant content (something I suspect they work on around the clock).

Solve those things, and perhaps they can take on Google. But, if you look at the above list of things Google has, it appears Google is off to great start.

What do you think? Will Facebook become as big and important as Google?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2010 3:45 pm

    I agree with your two challenges that Facebook will face. Those two reasons are why I spend more time in Twitter than in Facebook: less noise and open community.

    I think they will have some difficulty overcoming those points. The two things that are holding them back from exploding are the two things that have made Facebook explode.

    People love that they can have their circle of friends as tight as they want and that they have some privacy. Opening up the community would completely change the paradigm of the community. The same with all the noise. Facebook has partly exploded because the developers have embraced it and been allowed to create any application under the sun. These updates about Farmville, while completely annoying, are partly why Facebook took off.

    Great points! I do think Facebook could give Google a run for their money if they address these issues.

  2. February 16, 2010 8:07 pm

    Google has been trying to be a social utility for a while now (Buzz is just their latest foray). And there are a lot of rumblings that Facebook wants to be a local search utility.

    Rather than thinking about whether Godzilla is going to take out King Kong (or vice versa), I can’t help but wonder what would happen if they merged. The possibilities of combining Google’s contextual algorithm with Facebook’s social graph are pretty mindboggling.

    Then again, if the Yahoo | Microsoft merger of a couple of years ago couldn’t get past each company’s collective egos, the odds of an amicable Facebook | Google merger seems pretty miniscule.

    Oh, and thanks for the link love, man. 🙂

    • February 17, 2010 5:15 pm

      I do think that Google and Facebook could get a long, though I don’t think they could ever merge. That said, there’s a lot of room for search, especially with so many people making findable content.

      Like your content. Which is why I linked to it.

  3. ajayinsead03 permalink
    March 7, 2010 2:04 pm

    Google means Search.

    Google *THAT* = a verb -> This is a brand attribute – me thinks.. its not easy to dislodge – even

    if you discount what Google does (index the web) and how ( algorithms)

    A -> knows B -> knows C – Knows D +> A can befriend D : etc (helps in tuppaware parties – etc)

    But – its not the same game – as : Intent -> to content -mapping

    Google – so far – does this best -> SEARCH -SCAN – CLICK … and it seems it wants us phones too


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