Opinion: Facebook’s Growth Helps Google

Look Mom! I can open multiple tabs! I can use Facebook and Google!

So I’m listening to the Gillmor Gang yesterday and the topic of the moment is Google vs. Microsoft in the so called “Bing Sting” operation that allegedly caught Bing stealing or copying Google’s search results.

SNOOZE.

Scobleizer chimed in saying in effect this was a ploy to make Microsoft the enemy, a battle which he felt they could win, away from the real battle which is supposedly between Google and Facebook, a battle, which he and almost everyone else feels they can’t win. This meme has been going on for at least the past year and is growing more in intensity as each day passes.

I think it’s B.S.

  1. Firstly, Facebook is in a totally different business than Google. Facebook’s in the communication’s business. Google is in the automation business, the computation business, the indexing business. They’re strength is in applying automation to areas that most can benefit from engineering as opposed to human finesse. They are an automated “librarian” so to speak, bringing you the “book” you asked for with an ad for something similar to that book’s subject hanging over their shoulder.
  2. People say, well, all of Facebook’s traffic and attention is ad inventory that Google is losing. BS. All of Facebook’s attention has come through the value it has created. In other words, this is ad inventory that wouldn’t exist without them. You think Google, even if Facebook didn’t exist, would be fulfilling this market? Heck no. Social is not in their DNA. Engineering and Data are in their DNA. Nerd stuff. Stuff that is very valuable, like the self driving car, and the Street View product, but by definition is anti social. The kinds of people, nerd engineers, that build this stuff, are by definition, anti-social, or at least socially inept. They don’t have the feel or finesse for interaction with people or even for the user interface of humans with the TRON-like world.
  3. Also, people don’t search on Facebook. The only thing you can search for is people. You don’t search for the answers to questions like you do on Google. And then there’s the “Facebook’s a ‘Closed Garden’ shutting Google out” argument. Again, BS. Facebook exists inside a browser. If I see something on Facebook that interests me, that I want to find out more about, I simply open a new tab in my browser and Google it.In this sense, Facebook’s growth is helping to grow Google’s business. And Amazon’s (Gary Vee just tweeted and ‘facebooked’ about his new book with an Amazon link. So Facebook’s “walled Garden” didn’t prevent me from going there, did it?) and everyone else who is providing ‘value’ on the web. Companies that create real value help other companies that are also creating real value. I don’t think anyone would argue that Facebook and Google aren’t providing real value to society and to the economy.
  4. Think about it. What Facebook is doing is bringing the mainstream audience to the net. Every day more and more “normal” people from my past, folks who are not exactly computer or net geeks are ‘friending’ me on Facebook.  And these folks’ browsers aren’t locked into only being able to pull up Facebook. They can open another tab and search Google. They do, and they are.

Facebook still hasn’t and I don’t think ever will find a “magic bullet” way to monetize. That’s because it is closed, so search on the site itself doesn’t exist. But it will still make tons of money, simply through gigantic growth. Basically it is, or is becoming the network TV of the 1970s. And those guys made a lot of dough.

Facebook’s a great place for branded advertising. I can’t swear by this, but I don’t think I’ve ever clicked on a Facebook ad. And I’ve been a member since 2006. Although that doesn’t mean the ad impressions haven’t had any effect on me. And I’ve noticed also that the ads are becoming better and more relevant each day.

Also there’s a Farmer’s Insurance balloon in flying above my Farmville farm.

So Facebook’s attention is translating into profits albeit not as efficiently as Google’s monetization system, but that’s to be expected. They are different businesses. And people spend more time on Facebook than they do on Google (At least in search terms. Now, other Google products, Gmail, Docs, News, etc. would be a different story.)

So my argument would be. Facebook and Google are two different companies who are in two different markets. The only similarities being that you access them through your computer screen or mobile device. They don’t fight for attention. They compliment each other’s attention. Facebook is fulfilling the key role of “legitimizing” the web for the mass audience. In so doing, it’s bringing more people online, who otherwise wouldn’t be, folks who will fuel Google’s growth as well. Facebook is the content, the entertainment, the public square, and private party. Google is more of a utility in this metaphor. Not as glamorous, but it does help keep the party “warm” if you get my meaning.

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