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.
Facebook Messages Ups the Ante in Rivalry with Google
6. The world is social
Google is a top online destination. But the company’s services are utilities that folks use to make their lives a little bit easier. Facebook is slightly different. It’s a place where people communicate and entertain themselves away from their offline lives. That has obviously caught on. And going forward, the social craze doesn’t seem to be slowing down. That could play into Facebook’s favor-and against Google.
7. The possibilities are endless
Let’s face it: Facebook’s potential is endless. With so many active users, it’s possible that Facebook can enter into several different markets, including mapping, document creation and many others, and be successful. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it will, but it’s always a possibility. And as the company’s messaging platform shows, Facebook is willing to redefine markets where it believes it has a chance at being successful.
The big issue with Google and Facebook continues to be how they handle user privacy. As Google’s recent issues with its Buzz social network and Street View mapping service show, the company has trouble to that end. But so does Facebook. Many of its missteps have been related to privacy in some way. But with the social network’s new messaging platform, users will be able to choose who can contact them and who cannot. Plus, the platform won’t examine information in messages to target ads at users. It’s a step in the right direction. Furthermore, it could give Facebook the privacy upper hand over Google going forward.
9. Facebook is becoming more Google-like
Facebook has implemented search into its offering; it now has a quasi Gmail competitor; and it’s a key player in Web advertising. Google has tried its luck with social networking with Buzz, and it hasn’t worked out so well. The reason why is simple: Trying to get the vast majority of Web users to a single service to communicate is really hard. Matching an entrenched competitor is extremely difficult. That’s a challenge that Facebook continues to face as it attempts to steal ad market share from Google, but it’s easy to see that Facebook is having more success at becoming Google-like than Google is at becoming Facebook-like.
10. The virtual world
Although most people may not think of this when they compare Facebook and Google, the impact that virtual goods can have on the future of both companies is significant. Virtual goods revenue is on the rise, with the possibility of people spending $14 billion in 2014. Facebook is home to some of the top games in the world, thanks to Zynga, and the company has the ability to capitalize quite effectively on that. But Google isn’t positioned as effectively. That can very easily change going forward, but given how much money is at stake in the virtual goods market, Facebook’s positioning should worry Google.