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Facebook Might Be Going After Google, And They Could Just Win

Facebook is enormous, the biggest player online in terms of page views, total time spent on site and registered users. At this moment 1 in 4 of all page views in the US are on Facebook.com. But with 845 million monthly active users at the end of 2011 the growth in users has to be slowing down.

It’s simply impossible to keep the numbers of active users growing at least 100% every year, like they did from 2004 to 2010. So where’s the growth now for Facebook? Is it just about getting more revenue per user on Facebook? Or are they going to look further than their social network?

Let’s look at Google

When Google saw the revenue from the users of their search engine wasn’t growing as hard as it used to they decided to try to conquer the rest of the web. They started to offer text ads that could be integrated in every single website. And as it became a major money maker they also introduced display advertising and remarketing to make even more money from these other websites.

At the same time Google started developing all kinds of new products from web based office software to web browers and mobile operating systems. Sometimes by taking over existing companies, like Urchin for Google Analytics and Android for Google Android, other products were developed completely by Google, like Google Chrome or Gmail. All of them to get to more users on more places and make more money. Google got out of its comfort zone and chased the user everywhere they could.

Now that Google has users everywhere on the web it wants to connect all the user information and all the product interaction into one system: Google+. This way Google can offer a tailor made web experience based on all the information available on the web, at least all the information available to Google. Because if we consider 1 in 4 page views in the US are on Facebook.com, Google is missing out on a lot of vital information. Vital information about interests, social connections, recommendations, whereabouts and more. A pity for Google, and possibly a major frustration because people aren’t giving that information to Google voluntarily.

And now back to Facebook

So if we consider the amount of vital data Facebook has about users, why aren’t they tailoring the web like Google wants to? Because Facebook is still a platform on its own, a destination where you go. Not something that influences much outside Facebook.com. Well, at least it wasn’t for a long time. But change might be around the corner. Facebook is slowly coming out of its shell and is exploring the major possibilities of the web.

Instead of launching a music platform like Google will do with Google Music, Facebook has stipulated a vital integration in Spotify. Instead of integrating its own existing photo service like Google did with Picasa, Facebook bought Instagram, a photo service with at least 27 million users. Instead of just launching its own location based service like Google Latitude, Facebook bought Gowalla to grow its location service. So, where Google is connecting its own services and trying to develop ‘better services’, Facebook is integrating into existing services. The question is: is Facebook luring the users to Facebook or is Facebook coming to users outside of Facebook.com? It could be both, but the latter would be a very interesting move.

The battle of Facebook vs. Google?

But what if Facebook wants to take on Google? Facebook could be more visible to users on the entire web. Facebook could tailor the web to users maybe even better than Google because of the vital personal information they have. But it´s hard to tailor the content on the web without an access point to the web. Google has several access points to the web: a search engine, a web browser, a web based operating system and even advertising space on a majority of the websites. Google has the capability to regulate web traffic and that is why Google makes much more money online than Facebook.

So Facebook needs an access point to the web to be able to tailor the web. Let’s bring in the rumours: a Facebook Phone, Facebook partnering up with social browser Rockmelt, very early speculations on Facebook slowly exploring display advertising and even a speculation by Bas here on State of Search about Facebook and Yahoo! maybe even partnering up.

So this is just me speculating about Facebook and how they might me preparing for their battle against Google. What do you think, is the future of Facebook becoming a major access point to the web? Are they already preparing? Or are they just trying to improve their platform?

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AUTHORED BY:

Jeroen van Eck is a consultant search engine marketing at the online marketing company E-Focus in the Netherlands.