Who are you backing, Google or Facebook?

by jeffhilimire on April 5, 2010

I’m posing this to the group to see which of these companies you’d back for the foreseeable future, Facebook or Google?  In other words, is Facebook more likely to lose its leadership position in social networking before Google loses its leadership position in search?

Let’s debate…

  • http://timgoleman.com/ Tim Goleman

    I think Facebook has a great chance to get into the social search market. The question is are they going to put in the expense of creating a new technology for social search. They have the information of all its users and it could be leveraged into a new search capability. Currently the search in Facebook basically bites. I think for Facebook will loose before Google, because social networks are easier to create then a new search logarithm.

    I think Google will continue to grow and because right now the competition is not catching on with the general user (Bing & Yahoo). Google is so entrenched in the mass population that I think it will be hard to knock them off the top spot. How many people do you know, actually goes to Bing or Yahoo as their default search engine? Off the top of my head I can't think of any. But I think the one thing to watch is if they will become Microsoft 2.0.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/cubanx Ricardo Diaz

    Bing!

    I actually think they both can live there. Not sure how Facebook can leverage a search engine, and not sure how Google will graph a social network well.

    I really don't think it's an either/or.

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire

    Ah, but for both you and Tim, maybe I need to rephrase the question. Today, Google dominates search and Facebook dominates social.

    The question is, which of these giants will stop being the dominant player in their industry first? Not necessarily by whom, but who will drop from the #1 spot in their industry first?

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/cubanx Ricardo Diaz

    Ahh, ok, that makes more sense.

    My gut tells me Facebook, but, I actually think the Social Network graph will be harder to rebuild than the AdSense network.

    Don't forget, Google has a network, it's just not social, it's advertising :) Since advertisers are in it for the money, they are more motivated to switch. If Bing could bring the same numbers (or even close) to an adverstiser, and they did it cheaper than Google, they'd switch in a heartbeat.

    On Facebook, you've got to get the average user to switch. They have no incentive to switch, unless you offer something VERY compelling. It can't be price, FB is free :) So it'd have to be features.

    One thing that could throw a monkey wrench in my tidy little scenario there is if people get scared/tired/bored with Social Networking. But then again, if they're tired of Social Networking, the next big thing in Social Networking wouldn't matter.

    So sadly, I'd say logically it's Google, even though it'd kill me if Google disappeared in any significant way. Lots of folks gunning for them, and they did the right thing in China, but that may hurt them in the long run.

  • Josh Martin

    I agree with Diaz on this one. It's easier for me (and other users) to switch from using Google to using another search platform like Bing. I've already got so much invested in Facebook, for example, all of my photos are located there. It would take A LOT to get me to abandon Facebook and move all of my content to a different network.

  • David Burke

    If i were a betting man (and I am, typically) My money is on google to loose it's leadership in search. BUT, (and this is where i would look to someone smarter than me in terms of numbers, etc) if you factor in the ancillary products such as gmail, blogger, etc, i think the will be around longer, as a whole.

    It's a tough one though. Facebook is pretty embedded with its users, and people certainly make a commitment to usage and the connection to the site. it would take a pretty big misstep (like, charging for use) AND have a very tasty suitor lined up to take the users.

    My mother in law just got into Facebook. i don;t see her having the wherewithal to want to leave the site (or understand how) but i'm pretty sure she has no search preference. If i changed her default search to bing tomrrow, she would not notice or care, but i don;t think the same thing could be said for Facebook.

    I think for the average user, they have less of a brand preference for search than they do for social.

  • http://www.twitter.com/offtheroad Roger Welch

    While I agree with Ricardo that it is currently 'easier' to get the average user to switch search engines rather then social networks I disagree with him that Facebook is in a stronger position to maintain its dominance. You have to take into account other market dynamics – the recent FB privacy/security snafus come to mind. How long will it take users to switch from FB to another social network when they realize that their personal 'private' profiles/networks are being shared with third parties? I have run across a few people recently that have dropped off FB altogether because of privacy concerns – other social networks are easy to find – and most of your connections can most likely be found on at least a few of them.

    On the Google front I think people are smelling blood in the water simply because they've been the dominant player (by far) in the search space for so long that any stumble is magnified. We all know that the majority of people don't like companies/teams/people that maintain extended periods of dominance. With that being said the only real threat at this time to Google is Microsoft. The cost of entry to the search space is prohibitive to new competition- at least for anyone that is shooting for anything beyond a niche/minor market share. That makes its market share much easier to defend then FB's where competitors can pop up overnight.

    My believe is that the social space has a lot more room for competition and its a lot easier to get into then search. FB is also at a precarious point in its existence right now. It's trying to transition a user base that is used to free, private, controlled sharing of their information into a user base that they can more easily monetize through a reduction of that privacy. That puts them in a much more challengeable position then Google.

    -imho

  • clouvi

    Nice Jeff, I'm pretty sure you have successfully posted the first social media GMAT/LSAT/MCAT (choose your most hated) question.

    First you have to answer who wins the mobile OS wars…Apple or Google or Other (err RIMM)? Google owns the desktop, but they don't own mobile…yet.

    If it's Google/Other, then FB goes down first.

    If it's Apple, then Google goes down first.

    The iPad (other such devices) is meant to be that in/bn device that the average person (not us tech geeks) love. They want to own the virtual living room.

    Anyway, back to reality…

  • http://www.engauge.com/ Raghu

    Reminds of the quote from City Slickers where Jack Palance's character responds to Billy Crystal's by saying “I crap bigger than you”.

    There is a chance that Apple and the US Government could conspire to claim that devices are not computer and therefore consumers are not allowed to choose search engines or browsers like they do on a desktop/laptop – but given freedom of choice Google will dominate in its core business of finding and indexing all the worlds information ever created in any form and providing you with it on any device anywhere in the world (and funding that with highly relevant ads).

    While Facebook is an inherently smaller company that can dominate in social networking for some time I think a social network with several hundred million people in it could emerge as a viable competitor (a Pepsi to Facebook's Coke). That social network could start in South America, or China, or India but could spread.

    I see a strong chance that both companies continue to dominate in their area through the end of this decade, but for next decade I would put my bet on Google to continue to dominate (and definately continue to exist – take a look at the top 50 companies from 10 years ago many of them no longer exist, so 10 years can change a lot).

  • http://twitter.com/thedigitalists Greg H

    To me, the key point is that Google has a far more effective means of monetizing search than Facebook does of monetizing social. Facebook makes money because it scales. Google scales because it makes money. That's important because they're far less likely to have to fiddle with their model or make any kind of panic move when investors start demanding profits.

    Also, if Google does get taken down, it will almost certainly not be from Bing, Yahoo, or any other copycat service. It will be because something completely new comes along and upends the industry. Remember, 15 years ago everyone was debating who would knock off Microsoft from the top perch of the OS biz. Well, no one ever did. Microsoft is still the king, but it's of a far less relevant kingdom.

  • http://twitter.com/thedigitalists Greg H

    To me, the key point is that Google has a far more effective means of monetizing search than Facebook does of monetizing social. Facebook makes money because it scales. Google scales because it makes money. That's important because they're far less likely to have to fiddle with their model or make any kind of panic move when investors start demanding profits.

    Also, if Google does get taken down, it will almost certainly not be from Bing, Yahoo, or any other copycat service. It will be because something completely new comes along and upends the industry. Remember, 15 years ago everyone was debating who would knock off Microsoft from the top perch of the OS biz. Well, no one ever did. Microsoft is still the king, but it's of a far less relevant kingdom.

  • clouvi

    Speak of the devil…posted on Mashable about an hour ago:

    http://bit.ly/dzQdNg

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire

    I agree with you that Facebook doing something like charging for use would seriously hurt their position, but something more likely that could do major damage would be how they decide to monetize the site from an advertising standpoint. If they make a few missteps along the way with how they interrupt our usage (by throwing ads in front of us), they could quickly find themselves leaking users.

    Of course the question then would be, where the hell would we go? Today, there's no social network that is capable of producing a similar experience to Facebook, whereas there are several search engines that can get the job done if Google screws up.

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire

    I agree with you that Facebook doing something like charging for use would seriously hurt their position, but something more likely that could do major damage would be how they decide to monetize the site from an advertising standpoint. If they make a few missteps along the way with how they interrupt our usage (by throwing ads in front of us), they could quickly find themselves leaking users.

    Of course the question then would be, where the hell would we go? Today, there's no social network that is capable of producing a similar experience to Facebook, whereas there are several search engines that can get the job done if Google screws up.

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire

    Nicely put Roger. You bring up a great point that today we can see Google's competition, so it makes it easier to assume they'd be the first to fall. With Facebook, there's no viable replacement right now.

    But I'll challenge you to explain your last paragraph. You say that social is “a lot easier to get into then search”. I'm not sure I agree. If a company came out with a new search engine tomorrow, let's say Apple did, I'd give it a try and could pretty easily start using it more and more with little effort. But if Apple decided to roll out a Facebook-like social network, I'd look at it with none of my friends on it, then I'd look back over at my Facebook account with ALL of my friends in it, and I'd likely just wait to see if my friends went to it.

  • http://www.kathlenehestir.com/ @KathleneHestir

    I agree with you there. The barrier to exit Facebook is much higher than Google. With Google, yes I have all my contacts saved in gmail, but with a couple of clicks I can export them to any other e-mail program and send out an e-mail to everyone saying I have a new e-mail address. That would take less than 15 minutes… I can also e-mail my friends outside of gmail, unlike Facebook – you must be on Facebook AND be my friend to talk to me and see my profile.

    With Facebook I can NOT export all my friends and their info to another social network with a few clicks – or really at all, unless I contact and convince them to do it themselves. So even if a better social network came out with tons of cool functions – it's completely pointless to me without my friends on it to socialize.

    We came across this obstacle with Whrrl – it was better than FourSquare, but no one was on it – so we didn't use it.

  • http://www.kathlenehestir.com/ @KathleneHestir

    Facebook and Google Dominate Online Identity War [STATS] http://ow.ly/1w2e5

  • http://www.kathlenehestir.com/ @KathleneHestir

    Facebook and Google Dominate Online Identity War [STATS] http://ow.ly/1w2e5

  • clouvi

    @Kathlene…I know I'm a/b to veer off the path, but what do you think Whrrl can do to up its game? I agree that that interface on Whrrl is better than FS. I know Whrrl has said before they want to compete in the Farmville space not the FS/Gowalla space.

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire

    That brings up another question, which is likely to “make it” over the long haul. Interestingly I think there's more of a chance over the next few years that Google loses its dominance over search before Facebook does over social networking, but if I had to bet which one is still around in 10 years, I'd pick Google.

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire

    “Facebook makes money because it scales. Google scales because it makes money”. Well said Greg.

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire

    A snapshot of how badly Facebook is killing the competition: http://bit.ly/cVy2JH – Timely for this debate…

  • http://twitter.com/Dave360 Dave Williams

    Facebook will own both. Social search is much more powerful the algorithmic search. Facebook won't just own social but also mobile and bury google on all fronts with time. Game Over for Google. Plus, they really only have one successful product that makes money,but a lot of it for now.

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire

    Well if I was going to listen to anyone about social search you're the guy!

  • clouvi

    I realize D-Dub put the final blow to this conversation, but I thought this piece from Jason was pretty interesting on FB upsetting the influential masses: http://bit.ly/dtg1TW

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire

    Dayam! Jason blew that up didn't he? Thanks for the link.

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