The rapid rise of Facebook cannot be ignored and reminds me of the speed at which Google rose to prominence a few years ago.
At face value, the offerings of both companies seem different (search engine vs social application) but they essentially comprise of many similar elements; personal user data, email, IM, advertising revenue, social applications and search functionality.
The next couple of years will be interesting and my feeling is that Facebook will keep up their rapid development and growth. They will continue to integrate new features and will provide Google with serious competition.
Facebook’s integration of Microsoft Live Search will, I believe, provide some serious competition to Google search. It may even become many users default search engine this year. This probably won’t have anything to do with search algorithms, the user will simply find Facebook web search more convenient than opening another browser tab/window to search Google. I’m sure Facebook will also improve their current search offering to include more impressive functionality and personalised suggestions/preferences.
Personal data and advertising
Google has for some time now had access to a huge amount personal user data. This has enabled them to provide personalised results and advertisements. Facebook has access to a greater depth of member/user information, which may enable them to target users more effectively and increase their advertising revenue. I’m sure they will develop this further and find more interesting and effective ways to target their members. Thinking about what they know can actually become quite scary… they know our address, our telephone numbers, our education, our family members, our employment history, our likes and dislikes, they know more about me than my best friend of 20 years!
Google and Facebook both provide platforms which enable users to login to third-party applications using their Google or Facebook credentials. Both systems, Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect, allow the third party applications to connect and access personal user information with the major difference being that Google also allows a user to login using Yahoo, AIM or OpenID credentials. These combined give Google a wider user base but I don’t think this will guarantee success. In fact, my guess is that most users with Gmail, Yahoo, and OpenID accounts also have a Facebook account, which contains far more personal and contact information, thus making it more likely for them to use when signing in to third party applications.
I’ll leave you to digest some recent Facebook statistics:
– More than 150 million active users
– More than half of Facebook users are outside of college
– The fastest growing demographic is those 25 years old and older