Facebook’s ambition to overtake Google

I tweeted yesterday, “In TV ads, brands now mention#facebook pages not websites. Messaging, likes, pages, places, credits– Facebook IS the Internet”. Here’s my prediction:

Five years from now, Facebook will become a huge part of search, phone calls, email, media, shopping, maps, etc.

Facebook’s search will become more robust in the near future

When advertising on TV, brands are now starting to direct their audience to their Facebook page, not their website. This shouldn’t be a surprise considering that well-known brands such as Starbucks and Coca-Cola have about 14 million and 12 million “likes”, respectively. Fanpagelist has a list of top 20 brands on Facebook. Some of these brands include: Oreo (10M), Skittles (10M), Red Bull (8M), and Vitoria’s Secret (7M).

Can Facebook’s ubiquitous “like” button challenge the algorithm of our search engines? Mashable today reported, “Bing to Add Facebook ‘like’ data to search” . While I don’t think Facebook + Microsoft combination poses any immediate threats to Google, a search based on what people are supposedly interested in (I say supposedly because many people “like” articles, products, and pages they never revisit) rather than indexing massive amounts of data, might one day prove to be useful. Many well-known technologists have written about this topic– Nick O’Neil on All Facebook and Matthew Ingram on GigaOm.

Facebook messaging will increase, especially among the younger generations

Facebook messaging is still primitive compared to Google’s Gmail, which “owns” the email space. However, if how teens use Facebook messages is any indication of how people are going to behave in the future, then MS Outlook, Yahoo! Mail, and Gmail will need to continue to innovate and introduce more rich features to retain their current users. I overheard a conversation between men in their 40s that went something like this:

“My 13-year-old daughter doesn’t ever use email. She and her friends either text or send messages to each other through Facebook.”

This actually shouldn’t be a surprise. All of this kid’s friends are probably on Facebook. Since she’s most likely not talking about anything all that complicated, Facebook messages work just fine for her needs. She’ll eventually get so used to using Facebook that she will continue to use it as her primary communication tool even after she “grows up”.

Facebook’s social gaming platform will only get bigger

Facebook has a huge lead over everyone in the social gaming category. According to Lightspeed Research, more than  53% of Facebook users play social games and nearly 20% of them admit that they are addicted to social games.  Zynga, RockYou, Playfish and others have contributed to Facebook’s success in this category. Perhaps that’s why Google has been on a shopping spree lately, buying up SocialDeck, Slide, and Jambool and even investing in Zynga. Googlers are very smart. They know that this space is only going to get bigger.

Facebook Credits will be a big part of e-commerce

Facebook credits are used mainly for social gaming, but eventually it could become a form of universal online currency. I once had an idea to create an online virtual currency trading platform. I never followed through with the idea because I knew scaling would be an issue. Well, I think the guys at Facebook might have figured out how to do this. I would not be surprised if people start using Facebook credits to buy real products, not just virtual goods, on the Internet. Maybe PayPal should watch out for Facebook!

Facebook phone— I don’t know enough, yet, to comment too much about this (but I will anyway)

It’s no longer news that Facebook is “secretly” building its own phone. While Facebook denies it, it’s most likely that the rumor is true. TechCrunch recently reported:

Facebook is building a mobile phone, says a source who has knowledge of the project. Or rather, they’re building the software for the phone and working with a third party to actually build the hardware. Which is exactly what Apple and everyone else does, too.

While such a phone wouldn’t be a direct threat to Apple or Google right away, it reveals Facebook’s long-term ambitions– to challenge the iPhone and Andriod platforms. Facebook is no longer satisfied with a mere Facebook app on other smart phones. It wants to use the information it has about its users and connect them via its own mobile device. Brilliant. However, I wonder how the Facebook phone might be received in light of Facebook’s recent issues with user privacy. Still not convinced that Facebook is building a phone? Read this article from Business Insider.

Facebook as a platform could be interesting

I’m making a direct comparison between Facebook and Miscrosoft Windows or even Google Chrome, but there are countless Facebook apps, some of which have millions of users. These users often go directly to Facebook to access their favorite apps. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Facebook is the second most visited site, attracting more visitors than Yahoo! does. Google still has an edge over its competitors with its Chrome OS and Android, which has more market share than Apple’s iPhone. And with both LG Optimus and Samsung Galaxy Google’s market share of OS will only continue to grow– watch out Microsoft. However, Facebook’s extremely rapid transformation from a mere social networking site to what it is today should be a sign that it has an extensive product road-map that looks far into the future.

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with this:

Just as Google first started as a search engine but has since grown to become something much, much bigger, Facebook too will morph into something much greater than what it was when it was first conceived in a Harvard dorm room.

By: Jonathan Lee
Twitter: @hi5at5

2 responses to “Facebook’s ambition to overtake Google

  1. This is an insightful analysis of Facebook. It’s amazing how Facebook has grown over the past 6 -7 years. I give them credit for their vision and hard work, but I can’t help but think that they were the right guys and the right time to create the world’s best social network. I’m not taking anything away from what they were able to achieve. I’m just saying that we should also attribute credit to the pioneers who paved the way for Facebook. Let’s face it, without HotorNot, Friendster, and Myspace, people would not have been comfortable having their own profile online. I too am excited to see how Facebook will continue to evolve.

  2. Pingback: Why I am bullish on Facebook (FB). | Jonathanlee.me

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