Can Google Stop Facebook From Dominating The Web?

There’s a war taking place out in cyberspace. Not between nations fighting over political dogma, the stakes are far higher than that. This is a war between two Internet giants and it is for control of you.

Can Google Stop Facebook From Dominating The Web?

There’s a war taking place out in cyberspace. Not between nations fighting over political dogma, the stakes are far higher than that. This is a war between two Internet giants and it is for control of you.

Google and Facebook Logos
Who will control our homepages and by extension the Web?

There’s a war taking place out in cyberspace. Not between nations fighting over political dogma, the stakes are far higher than that. This is a war between two Internet giants and it is for control of you. The spoils for the victor are virtually unimaginable.

Right now you are probably reading this article in a browser such as Internet Explorer, Safari or Chrome. When you first fired it up you were taken to your homepage. When I say “your homepage” I actually mean the page that you first go to when you access the Web. It is probably either Google or Facebook and these are the two cyber behemoths who are fighting with each other. They are quietly locking horns and only one of them can win.

At the moment everybody will tell you that Google is the King of the Net. Google is the site that everybody uses to find information. Type into Google what you are looking for and behold the sites that hold your answers are there on your screen. With the new Google Instant service it is almost as though Google is reading your mind and starts to give you solutions before you have even finished typing. Google is famous for basically making a ton of cash out of small ads. Everyone one of those sponsored links is there because somebody wants to pay for you to click through to their site. They pay as little as 5 cents a click but all those 5 cents add up to make Google a lot of dollars every year.

Now we look at the young pretender to the throne, Facebook. Facebook also provides ads on its pages and they also charge peanuts for them, just like Google. One major difference is that you get the option to be charged per click on your ad or per thousand impressions of your ad (your ad gets displayed a thousand times but nobody needs to click on it).

At first glance you might think that they are not in competition with each other, one is the giant in search and the other is the giant in social media. Two different demographics, totally unrelated and therefore not in competition. Wrong, they are like feuding families. Think Montagues and Capulets from Romeo and Juliet and you get the idea. They both want to dominate the internet advertising market and Facebook, although it is currently less popular, is almost certain to win.

Facebook has a couple of advantages over Google. The first advantage has already been mentioned, the ability to pay for a thousand page impressions. If you are a small business and you do not think you can afford to have a website or want the bother of maintaining a site then you can advertise on Facebook and just use your telephone number. As Facebook rolls out its Places geo location service advertisers will almost certainly be able to target their advert to only appear to users in specific locations. This will be perfect for small businesses operating in just one town. Place an ad, include your phone number and when you receive a call ask where they got your number from, analytics at its most basic. Imagine that you are a plumber, you could place an ad on Facebook that says something like:

Save This Number
24 Hr Emergency Plumber
Prompt Service and Low Prices
0123 456 789

You no longer need a website of your own, you can just use Facebook to generate sales leads for you from people in your own area.

This may seem a compelling argument, but I will build on it with the other reason that Facebook is destined to win. People spend more time on Facebook. Facebook is addictive. People spend lots of time Facebooking. There are millions of people who check their Facebook page as soon as they wake up, just to see if they have missed anything last night. Of course when they check Facebook they are automatically served with ads. How many people wake up and think “I’ll just see if there is anything new on Google”? You can probably count those people on the fingers of one foot.

People sign into Facebook and stay there all day, and night. I can remember back in about 2006 being at a party and one of my friends spent the vast majority of his time sitting at a table hunched over his laptop refreshing Facebook almost every 30 seconds just to see if anybody had updated anything. This was not some geek who struggles to communicate with people, this guy was athletic, playing many team sports and worked as the manager of a bar. He has more than his fair share of social skills and yet wanted to spend time on Facebook rather than interacting with his friends in the same room. The point of this is that as people spend a lot of time within the walled garden that is Facebook then Facebook has the opportunity to show you a lot of ads.

Contrast that with Google. You type your query into the search box, hit “Google Search” and then browse the results clicking on the links that interest you. Once you click on that link you are taken away from the Google environment and so Google can no longer display ads to you. Even if you take into account Google Adsense (The ads that are provided by Google on other websites) they do not equate to the volume of advertising that Facebook stands to generate.

Facebook boasts on its’ homepage that it is free to sign up to Facebook and it always will be. Of course it will always be free. Facebook wants to get everybody on its site so that it can maximise its advertising revenue.

There is already a search box on Facebook and as more and more businesses establish a presence on Facebook that search functionality is likely to expand. At the moment if your fan page has more than 25 fans then you can get a vanity URL. Mine is (shameless plug). Companies are likely to use keywords in their vanity URL to help drive traffic to the Facebook page. Over time we may even see the development of a whole new industry FBO (Facebook Optimisation).

So what can Google do? There is the much talked about Google Me, the alleged social media site that Google is going to launch. Can it rival Facebook? It might be able to, though if Google’s recent track record with products such as Wave and Buzz continues then the answer is likely to be no. Google does have a lot of tools already in place that would form the backbone of any new social media platform, things such as Google Profiles, Maps, Latitude, Picassa, YouTube, Buzz, Gmail and even Wave. If they could all be tied together in one interface then there is the potential for them to challenge Facebook. Lots of people forget that they do already have a social media platform in Orkut so there are real possibilities. They also have the massive Gmail user base. If you can log into the new social network using your Google Account details then they straight away have the sort of user base that can achieve critical mass and get over that initial hurdle of “the site’s good, but there’s nobody on it”. Something to note about Orkut is that when you go to the homepage ( it says that it is a beta version.

Google will only have one chance to get this right, if they make the sort of stupendous mistakes that they made with the privacy issues around Google Buzz then they will be doomed to failure not only in social media but perhaps, long term, as a company.