Not to long ago it seemed as that the next major battle in information technology was the inevitable showdown between Google and Microsoft. Microsoft of course does not want to relent it’s near ubiquitous presence in desktop and office products… and Google making inroads by attempting to make the desktop less relevant and offering online versions of the types of tools that make the MS Office suite so useful. Microsoft of course doesn’t feel comfortable with Google sitting with the lions share of the lucrative online ad market and fired its latest salvo in it’s own BING search engine. These two titans will clash, but something much more subtle and much more interesting is happening… Facebook is making an end run around Google.
Facebook recently SURPASSED Google in weekly market share of Internet traffic in the US. Let that sink in for a second… Facebook passed Google in traffic. Yes, the same Google that successfully turned their company name into a verb synonymous with the word “search”. The margin between the two sites was thin. For the week ending March 13, visits to Facebook.com accounted for 7.07 percent of all Internet traffic in the United States whereas visits to search engine Google made up 7.03 percent. This shows the real volume of traffic that people shell out towards Facebook to tag photo’s, play Farmville, post status updates, and chat with old friends (all except for one Google has an offering that does the same… just not centralized like Facebook).
Facebook isn’t content with standing still though and has several BIG things up it’s sleeve. The most earth shattering and radical thing they’re doing is extending their Facebook Connect platform to make a “LIKE” button for the entire Internet. Their goal is to provide hooks back to Facebook for content providers to place a “Facebook Like button” on all content. This is a MASSIVE play. It will of course be amazing for content publishers as more of their content will flow in front of the millions of eyeballs that pass through Facebook every day, but it’s also very, very good for Facebook as sites across the web will rush to get their content like-able. Google spends billions of dollars indexing the web for their search engine. Facebook will get the web to index itself, exclusively for Facebook.
Facebook is also launching what they call “Places“. This is essentially a function that has been popularized on newer “location-based” Web sites like Foursquare and Gowalla, and to a lesser extent Google latitude. The idea is that users will “check in” at restaurants, businesses and public locations. When a person checks in to a certain spot, his or her friends are alerted about their whereabouts. This of course will all be pushed as status updates to friends… or made available for location aware games. Restaurants and events will rush to Facebook to create (even more) Fanpages and Groups… events in Facebook will have a whole new meaning as users can not only say they will or will not attend but actually notify Facebook (and their friends… but also advertisers, etc) that they are AT the event.
Last but not least: Facebook’s Plan To Automatically Share Your Data With Sites You Never Signed Up For. That’s right, Facebook is going to be automatically opting users into a reduced form of Facebook Connect on certain third party sites. Facebook partners will now be able to look for your existing Facebook cookie to identify you, even if you never opted into Facebook Connect on the site you’re visiting. Using that, the third party site will be able to display your friends and other key information. It’s possible that these sites will also be able to display any data you’ve shared with ‘everyone‘, which is of course now the default option on Facebook.
Add it all up and Facebook is making a major play in the world of the interwebs.