Look Into My Eyes... (And give me your cash)
Various sites (CNet, TechRepublic) are saying that the Facebook IPO isn’t for mere mortals like you and I and not to even consider buying stock. When we finally get our chance, the venture capitalists, early investors and company employees will already have had their wallets vaccuumed clean and the price will be horribly inflated. But what if Facebook was about to change up a gear and bring its Armada of engineers to face the company that has already fired the first shot across their bows?
In the S-1 filing, the document required for private companies in the US to get the ball rolling on going “public”, Facebook stated in no uncertain terms that they were at risk from competitive products. With MySpace no longer being a threat, Bebo long dead, Friendster (who?), well you get the point, their competition is obviously Google+. Google are the ones in possession of the smoking cannon with their Facebook-a-like social network and have recently started playing dirty. Signing up to ANY of Google’s services (Calendar, Docs, GMail, etc) will AUTOMATICALLY sign you up for a Google+ account. If you’re over 18, that is.
Given the search and advertising monopoly of Google, this hardly seems fair.
Why are you talking about Google so much? Wait a second, search and what monopoly?
A-ha. Welcome to the party. What kept you?
What would really spoil Google’s day? What would make their Google+ potshot look like a potato gun going off? And most importantly, what would give new investors something to really smile about after they put all their cash into Mark Zuckerberg’s university project?
Every website you go to, you see Facebook’s “Like” button. Every website you go to, you see Facebook’s Comments widget (just scroll down a bit to see an example…). Website owners trust Facebook enough to control how word of their sites spread. They trust them to be in control of the primary way of engaging with their readers, visitors and (this is the important one) customers.
You can see where I’m going with this.
Why wouldn’t webmasters also trust Facebook to supply the adverts on their site? Remember, the adverts that Facebook provides are very highly targeted. Just look to the right hand side of your News Feed next time you’re on FB. Scary, huh! So webmasters are going to enjoy adverts that are very likely to earn them more money. Imagine if you see an advert for a new computer game, Facebook can add a list of your friends who like this product too (using Sponsored Stories, which is already available to companies who want to pay for it!). That’ll increase the pull of the adverts. It’s all great news for webmasters. And very very bad news for Google’s AdWords product.
Wait. Isn’t that the reverse of what Google hopes to achieve with Google+?
EXACTLY! Google are using Google+ to get inside your mind, your social circles, your likes and dislikes, your answers to open ended questions such as “What’s on your mind?”. This all allows them to provide you with more relevant search results and, the important bit again, more relevant adverts that will be more likely to be clicked on.
Facebook is in a much better position than Google, however. Google are in “learning” mode. You’re slowly transferring all your likes and tastes across to Google+ from Facebook, but Facebook already has it all. It has the historical records too which shows how your likes and tastes have evolved over time. Google+ can never give that to Google’s advertising engine.
Facebook could launch their version of AdWords tomorrow, and advertisers would drop Google like a weight lifter with sweaty hands. The benefits of advertising through Facebook will be immense.
But I get Analytics with Google too. As a Webmaster, I’m still splitting my tools between the two aren’t I?
Don’t forget, Facebook are actually pretty good at offering analytics. For anybody who has ever written an App on the Facebook platform, you’ll know about Insights – a growing collection of stats and utilities you can use to track how your application is doing.
It’s not a quantum leap from monitoring Facebook Platform Apps to monitoring users roaming around websites.
And then Google becomes nothing but what it was in 1998: A Search Engine with a cashflow problem.
I like Facebook. It has values that I identify with. I used to like Google, but then it all went very creepy, stopped being innovative and just started being reactive. Not good for a technology company!
I think Facebook would be crazy not to do this. It has amazing commercial potential while also ingratiating website owners with Mark Zuckerberg’s company.
And lastly, it would kill Google, which would solve that whole “competition” thing, that Facebook said was a real risk.