Facebook Scaring Google?

    July 10, 2007

Ever since Andy joined Facebook, things have been looking up for the social networking site. (What do you mean, there’s no correlation?) Today their numbers are up and there are rumors that Google should be very, very afraid.

Facebook is looking at major successes not only from their platform but also from the influx of new users this year. TechCrunch reports on comScore’s findings that over the last year:

Facebook saw an 89% increase in unique visitors to the site at 26,649,000 uniques, with a 143% increase in page views at 15.8 billion. The site’s stickiness has increased and then tapered off at about 190 minutes per average user.

Additionally, the demographics of the social network are shifting—the 18-24 demographic is the only one to occupy a smaller slice of the pie since last year. Although the college-aged group is the slowest growing, it still saw 38% growth:

Age Segment May 06 (000) May 07 (000) Percent Change
Total Audience
Unique Visitors (000)
14,069 26,649 89%
Persons: 12-17 1,628 4,060 149%
Persons: 18-24 5,674 7,843 38%
Persons: 25-34 1,114 3,134 181%
Persons: 35+ 5,247 10,412 98%

paidContent.org is reporting that Facebook has also hired a VP of marketing and operations, Chamath Palihapitiya, a former executive at AOL.

Should Google be running scared? AdAge seems to think so:

Just as Google has become what some people call the operating system for search, Facebook is turning itself into the operating system for social networking. While Google knows what millions of people are searching for, Facebook has something the search giant hasn’t been able to grow: a network of connections between people that creates a viral distribution platform unrivaled by any portal or search engine.

Don’t think this point hasn’t made its way to Mountain View. It has certainly made it into the New York offices of News Corp., parent of Facebook’s chief competition. When asked recently by the Wall Street Journal whether newspaper readers were going to MySpace, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, who shelled out in 2005 what now appears to be a bargain sum of $580 million for MySpace, didn’t mince words: “I wish they were. They’re all going to Facebook at the moment.” (Actually, although Facebook’s audience growth is outpacing that of MySpace, its total audience numbers are still less than half the 69 million unique visitors scored by Mr. Murdoch’s social network in May.)

Is Google concerned? Most likely. There’s no denying that social search is one of the most attractive avenues for the future of search. But should they really be worried?

It’s been eight weeks since we first asked “Whither Facebook?” We’re still waiting to see, and I think we’ll still be waiting a while yet.