You may have noticed that Facebook isn’t exactly my favorite social media network. There are 100 reasons not to like Facebook, but now I have another one. According to the Financial Times, Facebook traffic has just surpassed Google. Over the last year the company has seen phenomenal growth, especially among the baby boomer crowd. But as of this week it made up for a 7.07% of popularity compared to Google’s 7.03%. For Facebook, that’s more than a 5% growth over the past year.
But unlike Google, the Facebook model is just beginning to find its marketing and moneymaking potential. In comparison to Google, who took in an estimated $23bn last year, Facebook will likely see somewhere from $1bn to $1.5bn this year.
So why the heck is Facebook so popular? Admittedly, I used Facebook before any other social media network (Geek Confession #204). Back then, it was a bit like MySpace lite. Now, I swear, everyone I ever knew, met, or thought about is on Facebook. I guess one of the biggest draws for the service is its ease of use (provided they don’t mess with the design every three weeks — which they seem to be in the habit of doing). Unlike many other social networks, Facebook has a fairly shallow learning curve. As a result it seems far easier for people with less computer experience to participate. It has a far broader reach in that way.
What is surprising however, is that unlike other social media networks, Facebook doesn’t seem to be just going after communication. As the article indicates, they’re going up against Google. And Google, as we all know, is a search engine (in spite of their rather lame attempts at creating social networks *cough* Buzz *cough*).
A few weeks ago, I finally figured out why Facebook bothers me so much. It’s that, under the guise of a social network, the site really just wants to be part of everything you do online: it’s inward facing, not outward facing social networking. Certainly, Google is doing this as well, with AdWord integration. But there seems to be something rather uncomfortable about creating a Web portal that’s starts as a social media front. Combining personal photographs and correspondence with day to day internet browsing just feels a little too Big Brother for me… and potentially a recipe for disaster.
But, don’t panic yet. As with all statistics, it’s important to take things in stride. From the article:
The Hitwise figures only cover visits to the Google.com site, meaning that services such as Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps and searches carried out in a box in a browser toolbar are excluded. Taking all Google properties into account, the internet company accounted for 11.03 per cent of US website visits last week, compared with 10.98 per cent for Yahoo properties and 7.07 per cent for Facebook, according to Hitwise.
If we’ve learned anything about the Internet over the last 20 years, it’s that it is ever changing and absolutely unpredictable. Granted, I’m not exactly cheering for Facebook, but it’s interesting to see the way that Internet hard hitters are playing it out, and which users seem to have the most influence.