When it comes time to look at Google and its prospects for the future, few see it as a company that should worry. After all, the search giant reigns supreme in search and other online services and continues to expand its empire in the mobile business. It's arguably positioned more effectively than any other company in the entire industry. So, the chances of it even feeling pressure might, to some, seem slim, to say the least.
But further inspection of the Web market reveals that Google does have something to worry about. It now seems plausible that going forward, its biggest threat won't be Microsoft or Yahoo, but Facebook. The social network, which is now over 500 million users strong, is quickly becoming one of the top brands on the Internet. In fact, the company's internal statistics page claims more than 30 billion "pieces of content" are shared on the site every month.
Now, Facebook is offering a messaging service that, although it won't directly compete with Gmail, could very well be the Gmail killer some have been waiting for. If that happens, all kinds of trouble could be awaiting Google.
Read on to find out why Facebook is Google's biggest threat.
1. Gmail means a lot
Make no mistake that Gmail is one of Google's most important services. Not only does it have nearly 200 million users around the globe, but it's a key driver for keeping Google users on the company's sites and not venturing to other domains. If Facebook's new messaging platform, which combines e-mail capabilities with SMS, IM or Facebook messages, works as planned, Gmail's stance as a major player in the communication market could be hurt in a big way.
2. Search capabilities are there
Currently, Facebook has very basic search capabilities that allow people to type in basic queries into a search box and redirects them to an outside page to view the results. But with more than 500 million active users, Facebook can very easily expand upon those search capabilities and deliver something that could eventually match Google. Based on its recent history of delivering search improvements, that could happen.
3. It's where the users are
Google might be the top search engine, and YouTube might rule the video space, but Facebook is where the people like to hang out. According to Facebook statistics, users "spend over 700 billion minutes per month" on the social network. That is an incredible number. And it's something that Facebook continues to capitalize on. As long as people stay on Facebook, Google will face a big threat from the social network.
When it comes to online video, YouTube stands above all others. But Facebook is coming on strong. In fact, according to comScore data from over the summer, Facebook was the third-most popular video site on the Internet, tallying more than 46 million unique viewers. That paled in comparison to YouTube's 143 million viewers, but between June and July, Facebook saw unique viewers increase by 3 million, and total videos watched by 22 million. That's impressive. And it speaks to how many more people view Facebook as an online video destination.
5. Ads, ads, ads
Advertisements mean the difference between success and failure on the Web. So far, Google has easily dominated that space. But going forward, that just might not be the case. Facebook has an advertising platform of its own that does quite well, thanks to its highly targeted elements and the sheer number of people who can see those ads. That doesn't mean that Google will lose its advertising dominance to Facebook anytime soon, but there is a real chance that the social network will gain some serious market share over time.