“Facebook vs. Google” May Extend Well Beyond Social

    September 27, 2010
    Chris Crum

The Facebook/Google competition is getting more and more interesting. Last week, we talked about Google’s social plans and what "Google Me" will actually be. Basically, what it comes down to is that it  will not be a new social network, but rather a "social layer" added to existing Google products. 

I made the case that "Google Me" is probably already bigger than Facebook, based on Google’s existing products, and that if the company gets the social integration right, it could be a huge for capturing social media attention. Within that article, I made the point that Google has advantages like a browser and two operating systems (Chrome OS and Android). 

Who has the competitive edge in social: Google or Facebook? Tell us what you think

While I still think these are advantages in some ways, after reading what Mark Zuckerberg had to say about the company’s mobile strategy, I’m not sure just how big of an advantage these operating systems are after all, with regards to Google competing with Facebook for social attention. Essentially, Facebook’s plan is to be on every device, and build deeper integration into as many devices as possible by working with manufacturers and carriers. Here are some highlight quotes from Zuckerberg from his interview with TechCrunch: 

Mark Zuckerberg Getting Richer"Our strategy is very horizontal. We’re trying to build a social layer for everything. Basically we’re trying to make it so that every app everywhere can be social whether it’s on the web, or mobile, or other devices. So inherently our whole approach has to be a breadth-first approach rather than a depth-first one."

"Our role is to be a platform for making all of these apps more social, and it’s kind of an extension of what we see happening on the web, with the exception of mobile, which I think will be even more important than the web in a few years – maybe even sooner. "

"The web is only at one and a half billion people whereas everyone is going to have a phone and all the phones are going to be smartphones. So our strategy is that we want to go wherever people are building apps so we can make all of those apps social if they want that."

"We can do a single sign-on if we do a good integration with a phone, rather than just doing something where you go to an app and it’s automatically social or having to sign into each app individually. Those are the two options on the web. Why not for mobile? Just make it so that you log into your phone once, and then everything that you do on your phone is social."

Zuckerberg also implies that neither a browser nor an operating system are part of Facebook’s strategy. In terms of mobile, why should they be, if they can get "deeper integration" in every existing device – in those operating systems? Facebook is already getting deep integration on Android phones through things like contact sync. 

Of course Google can try a similar strategy of getting deeper integration on more devices with its various products, beyond Android (it’s done pretty well with that in terms of search already), but it might have a harder time than Facebook when it comes to offerings from companies like Apple and Microsoft. In fact, Google’s own Android will likely help Facebook with its strategy, thanks to its "openness". 

If Facebook can dominate mobile in the same way its dominating the web – in terms of simply having a presence everywhere – it is going to be hard to contend with for social. While Google does have Android and can always do any kind of Google integration it wants to with that (as well as with Chrome and Chrome OS), manufacturers and carriers utilizing Android may still feel it necessary to include that deep Facebook integration, whether Google likes it or not. 

One other potentially huge factor in this whole thing is Facebook Credits. According to a New York Times article, citing information from Inside Network, the market for Facebook Credits is expected to reach $835 million this year, and it’s really just getting started. As the article points out, Credits could one day extend beyond just apps on Facebook itself, just as Facebook has extended itself across the web. You can sign into many sites with your Facebook account. Why not pay with it? That’s just speculation at this point, but the possibility is very real.  This could make payments a lot simpler for users, especially on mobile. It could be huge for e-commerce – another area in which Google may find itself competing with Facebook.

Can Google contend with Facebook’s strategy? Share your thoughts