When you get on the web, where is the first place you go? If you regularly close your browser, it's whatever you have your home page set as. Is the page the destination of the majority of your online activity? If so, there's a good chance you have Facebook set as your home page. Maybe it's Google or Yahoo or Bing.
Whatever it is, Facebook appears to be getting ready to make a big push to get users to switch their home pages to Facebook. The company is reportedly testing different messages for users, encouraging them to do so. Many of Facebook's half a billion users are constantly logged into the site, and enhancing their experiences on many other sites on the web as a result already, so it stands to reason that many of these same users will take Facebook up on its offer, and just make the site their starting point.
Should Google be worried? Tell us what you think.
People are already spending a great deal of their time on Facebook. Some check their Facebook inbox, wall, or news feed before they check their email. Now with Facebook's new messaging system and email addresses, even more will go to Facebook first. If the messaging stuff could be considered an assault on Google, this subtle move certainly could be as well.
I don't have a number for how many people have Google set as their home page, but I'm guessing it's a pretty big one. It's about to get smaller. Facebook's only going to give people more and more reasons to keep Facebook as their entry to the web as well. Wait until Facebook payments become a standard way of making payments around the web, as they are likely to do eventually.
Don't be surprised if Google starts doing more to promote iGoogle, its customizable homepage, to stay in the forefront of users' minds. They're already doing more to promote Chrome, the company's web browser, which is looking to be more and more a key component of Google's overall strategy. What would happen if Facebook launched its own browser though? Rockmelt has essentially already done it for them (via Google's own open source Chromium platform), but if Facebook promoted its own browser right from Facebook itself, that could be an incredible blow to Google as well.
You might say Facebook doesn't need to own the browser, because its presence is felt nearly everywhere on the web anyway, but if Facebook were able to phase Chrome out of users' experiences, that's one less weapon Google has in competing for user attention.
But a lot of users' web experience starts with search right? Well, Facebook is pretty tight with Bing. If Facebook were to launch its own browser, I wonder what the default web search option would be. Facebook has so far not indicated that it will launch a browser, but it is encouraging users to set Facebook as their home page, and Bing is the default web search there. Here, it's going to be the on-page search competing with the browser search box (as well as Chrome's omni-box). Bing might see a bump in search market share from this as well. The fact that users already have ways to search from their browser toolbars also decreases the need to have a search engine as a home page.
The bottom line is that Facebook users have a lot of reasons to set Facebook as their home page. Their friends and family are there. Their messages are there. Their news feed (from friends, as well as any brand/publications they "like") is there. For gamers, their games are there. Their photos and videos are there. They can update their status from there. Their events are there.
Note: Google has released a new product for Google Docs that may play a significant, indirect role in its battle with Facebook. More on that here.
Will you set Facebook as your home page? Do you already have it set? Let us know in the comments.