Facebook Time Logged Underscores Need for Google Social Network

comScore said U.S. Web users in August spent 41.1 million minutes on Facebook compared to 39.8 million minutes on all of Google's Websites. Facebook's rise requires a social network answer from Google.

For most watchers of the Internet sector, the increasing belief that Web surfers are spending more time on Facebook than they are on Google is a piece of well-worn trivia.

comScore said U.S. Web users in August spent 41.1 million minutes on Facebook compared to 39.8 million minutes on all of Google's Websites combined, including YouTube, Gmail and other properties.

Facebook's ascension to the top spot in minutes logged to its Website is a first and underscores the importance of Google's pending social network.

The notion that Facebook would surpass its search portal giants in minutes spent online has seemed like a foregone conclusion for months given the social network's meteoric rise in users and the rampant sharing of links, photos, video and other content on the Website.

Facebook is like a warm, bubbly bath, where many of its 500 million worldwide users spend on average of 20 minutes or more per day socializing with friends, family and even colleagues.

Google is a fact-finding powerhouse for searchers wanting a quick fix. The search engine handles more than a billion searches a day from its one billion users, numbers that could soar with Google Instant ramping up the pace of search on Google.

The idea that Facebook would best a search engine built to serve users results and send them elsewhere seems logical.

But the idea that Facebook is also beating out an incredibly sticky video site in YouTube, a massively popular Webmail app in Gmail, and several other Web services is impressive and points to Google's dilemma.

Engagement is now clearly skewed to social network sites like Facebook, not siloed Web services such as Google search and e-mail.

This makes it imperative for Google to launch the alleged social network it is quietly building through internal programming, investment in Zynga and fervent acquisition of Slide, Jambool, Angstro and SocialDeck, according to Forrester Research analyst Augie Ray.

"Facebook is poised to continue to grow compared to Google, and this is increasing the need for Google to act," Ray told Eweek. "While Google has said little about their upcoming social offering, I expect it will bring an organized social strategy to the center of the Google consumer experience.

Ray noted that while search, Gmail, YouTube, Google News, Google Reader and other Web sites attract millions of users, the services are largely separate. Even Google Buzz is its own social conversation service built atop Gmail.

"Facebook commands more attention and consumer time, and that puts them in a powerful position with marketers who want to reach those consumers," Ray said.

"This isn't a crisis for Google because they still have considerable engagement and terrific marketing offerings such as AdWords, but Google will want to leverage its strong brand and the 39.8M minutes people spend on Google properties each month to create what they have not yet created: A single, cohesive place to engage, share, play and learn."

Will the Google Me social network please stand up?