Facebook just topped the 300 million user mark and said it was cash-flow positive. Things are looking up for the social network as it seeks to get users to spend more time in Facebook rather than searching Google or Twitter. If Facebook begins to surface all of its real-time, it is conceivable users will spend more time searching on the social network for things they want, which means less Web traffic heading to Google and other search engines.
: Journalists were star-struck yesterday as
to cover Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's announcement that Facebook now
"serves 300 million people across the world."
Putting that McDonalds' marketing speak aside, Facebook
has pulled a lot closer to Google in 2009. No, Facebook is not a search engine
and it does not claim to be one. However, note something Zuckerberg also said
in his post
: "Because we want to make it as easy and fast as possible for the world
to connect, one of the things we think a lot about is how to make Facebook
perform even faster and more efficiently as we grow."
That is a nod to the fact that Facebook is working hard at bringing
real-time Web to its Web pages, a move that will capture some of
Twitter's zeitgeist and vastly improve user engagement. Why else do you
think Facebook bought
real-time social feed aggregator FriendFeed last month?
FriendFeed co-founder Bret Taylor noted then that he was
thrilled to bring many of the innovations developed at FriendFeed to
Facebook's 250 million users. Make that now 300 million and counting. Taylor
and his team later open-sourced
the FriendFeed Tornado Web server and can sit back and watch
developers write programs off it, ideally for Facebook.
These moves combine two things Zuckerberg and Co. believe in: real-time search and social
interaction. Fifty million-plus users a month are flocking to Twitter. Others
are using real-time search engines
like CrowdEye or Collecta to see what's going on at
the moment. Real-time is where a lot of the new search traffic is going. A Facebook
move to the real-time Web should scare the hell out of Twitter
, which lives and does with real-time traffic exchanges.
If Facebook begins to surface content entirely in
real-time -- I'm not just talking about speedier search
-- Facebook will increase the stickiness of its already sticky
for user engagement alone are eye-popping.
More than 6 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day. More than 40
million users update their status daily. More than 10 million users fan Pages.
The average user has 120 friends on the site. More than 2 billion pieces of
content, including Web links, news stories, blog posts, photos, etc., are shared
on Facebook each week.
With all of the content users are pulling into Facebook, and
all of the games and other apps third-party Facebook developers are creating, it
is conceivable users will spend more time searching there for things they want.
Now that is a threat because it means less Web traffic heading to Google and
other search engines. For Google, users searching more in Facebook and less on its sites could be the sum of all fears.
Facebook, whom some wrote off as not having a prayer to
make money after the Beacon advertising fiasco
from 2007, is also showing
positive financial growth.
Buried below the 300 million and counting sermon from
Zuckerberg, was this nugget: "Earlier this year, we said we expected to be
cash flow positive sometime in 2010, and I'm pleased to share that we achieved
this milestone last quarter."
This means Facebook earned more than it spent for the first
time since its February 2004 inception. Facebook is finally moving the needle
in the other direction as it seeks profitability. In that respect, Facebook has
miles to go before it catches Google, an online ad giant that is pulling in $17
billion a year, largely from contextual keyword ads.
Facebook is clearly getting some return
from the ads it puts in front of the users who are spending 30 minutes
or more a day on the Website. Facebook board member Marc Andreessen projected
$500 million in sales for this year, with more than $1 billion on the horizon. Profitability is just around the corner in 2010.
Facebook's steady march on
Google's crown is continuing unchecked. Don't get me wrong. People will not
give up Google for Facebook. There is too much rich, historical information to
be found on a classic search engine that real-time search doesn't address.
What it does highlight is that real-time is a real weapon,
one with which Google has yet to arm itself.