With more than a billion global users, Facebook is the undisputed king of social. It’s the place where we go online to connect with friends and family, find people who share our passions, and express our opinions on just about any subject under the sun. But with Google gunning for the social kingpin, will Facebook remain the leader indefinitely? One thing we’ve learned over the years is that nothing is ever a certainty in the tech space.
New Spin on Search
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Graph Search – Facebook’s version of long-tail search (for example, you can search “my friends in Indianapolis who like the Patriots”) that was announced to great fanfare back in mid-January.
More than just a foray into search, Graph Search also represents the newest phase of a continuing partnership with Google’s other rival, Bing. When you search for information outside your personal network with Graph Search, Facebook allows Bing to handle the results. The partnership between Facebook and Bing dates all the way back to 2008, and that apparently doesn’t sit well with Google.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a late January earnings call that Facebook and Google don’t really talk to each other. So it appears that Graph Search has upped the ante in the tense relationship between the two tech titans.
Facebook’s grapple with Google involves more than just search. In 2011, Google took aim at Facebook with the launch of Google+, its own social network.
While many observers have been underwhelmed by the features of Google+, no one can deny Google’s resources and the company’s determination to make its presence felt in the social sphere. And the commitment is paying dividends; it was recently reported that Google+ had passed Twitter to become the second largest social network. While Google+ had some 343 million active users in December, that’s still just a fraction of Facebook’s massive audience.
Still, Facebook has its vulnerabilities involving issues like privacy, and it can be an unequalled time suck for many. (That online addiction might get worse, too, as Facebook makes a push into gaming.)
Cutting Down the Vine
Facebook has learned that operating as a public company means operating under a microscope; the business must deal with everything from tech reporters who follow the company’s every move to impatient investors who expect to make a fortune.
And there are the inevitable tensions that arise as other companies look to take advantage of Facebook’s huge social platform. The biggest hubbub in recent days involved a spat with Twitter in which Facebook denied Twitter’s Vine app access to the Facebook Friends list. (And the Russian search engine Yandex got a similar treatment when Facebook denied data access to its Wonder app.)
Booking a Ticket to Success?
Few will deny that Facebook has had profound effects on modern society in recent years. We don’t send as many letters as we used to, in large part because it’s much more convenient to post that party invitation or reunion announcement on Facebook (and perhaps email the remaining few who don’t have an account).
But the questions are many as Facebook continues to adjust to life as a public company. Will the social network fend off Google+, YouTube and Twitter in the long term? Will Graph Search ever develop into a major factor in the search space? And will Facebook be able to minimize the headlines about fights with other tech companies over things like data access?
No one has the answers, but everyone will be watching closely.