Facebook Passes Google: What Does It Mean?

Hitwise (though not comScore) now says that Facebook has passed Google to become the largest site on the Internet:

But the figures above don’t include all Google properties. And Yahoo + Yahoo Mail are larger than Facebook and Google.com. So these numbers can be massaged and manipulated to make various claims.

I want to ask: Is this merely symbolic or does this event suggest a material change in the nature of the Internet and the way we discover information online?

My view is that something has changed (over the past 18 months) and that social networks, user-generated content and social communication — extending into mobile — is part of a new Internet paradigm. Search remains critical but social is an alternative or counterpoint.

___

Here are the Nielsen top sites data for February (which contradict the Hitwise data above):

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22 Responses to “Facebook Passes Google: What Does It Mean?”

  1. Andrew Kaplan Says:

    Definitely a paradigm shift. But the rest of the story is not that social will supplant search, but that search itself will become more social and vice versa. There will be a continued convergence.

  2. Will Scott Says:

    Greg,

    This is really interesting, but not unexpected. In my conversations with Facebook people they’ve been pointing to greater time on site and engagement with the platform for at least a couple weeks.

    It’s clear that Facebook is a trusted (safe) environment and that people are starting to “hang out” there. Google, for all their attempts at co-opting others’ data, is not very sticky – you come, you search, you go on your way.

    Great stuff – really validates our focus of the last several months.

    Will

  3. Craig Says:

    Along with these numbers, Hitwise also published that top web sites are now getting more traffic from Facebook than Google.

    This seems like a more significant stat as it relates to small businesses. People are no longer discovering things only by searching for them. Consumers are increasingly discovering things through trusted recommendations and referrals from their networks on Facebook & Twitter.

    We are entering the age of “social discovery”…

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Indeed . . . “social discovery”

  5. troy Says:

    This is really an apple and orange comparison. I love the way people are now describing the nuances of search like, discovery, referral, stumble upon, trusted recommendations, etc.. I personal think Google will net net benefit. Picture this, a person ask a question on facebook, what is the best Fridge to buy and a friend answers. That person now has the “answer” but might go to Google to do a few more searches to get more information about the fridge.

  6. Scott Wolfgang Says:

    Greg,

    I couldn’t agree more and think that social discovery is a perfect complement to search. Prior to a 18-24 months ago, search was the only way to find info on the web and with things like Facebook and Twitter and even Foursquare taking off, it’s a lot easier to find new, interesting things fro your “friends”. I have noticed that my search activity has in fact declined because of this and I do think that AdWords will feel the impact at some point.

    Scott

  7. Greg Sterling Says:

    Yes, SD and search complement one another and will co-exist. I guess the question becomes can BingBook or Fing (Bing + Facebook) steal some share. A new and improved Bing integration on FB is coming.

    A good integration might make FB more of a “one stop shop.”

  8. Craig Says:

    Just to tag on…

    They are definitely complementary. Not sure about one stop shop though.
    People use search to discover information. They use social networks to discover through trusted opinion.

  9. Lee Says:

    @Craig

    You’re so wrong! A place becomes a one stop shop the moment it offers users what they’ve been using it for ever since AND in addition it offers what users go to use elsewhere. Let’s face it – Google may have been innovative with pagerank years ago, now Microsoft has a decent competitior in Bing. The difference there is minimal to everyday users like us.

    But Fing – quite a good nick actually – has one advantage over Google – they can narrow data to match people’s interests, preferences etc without much of their input. Those people have already provided most of the info or they friends done it for themselves. This is a real true paradigm shift where the FUTURE Internet will be centralized around YOU. Having a one stop shop that I can controll (in terms of privacy etc) and that does all the useful things for me makes it exactly what I need.

    Easy come, easy go is so much true for Google. There’s no loyalty to the service other than it’s simplicity and (now common) good results for its users. For Facebook, it will be more like a central hub where I can interact both with real humans in real time (friends, friends of friends etc) and automated properties (e.g. Bing etc).

    Facebook has now more than 400 million users. Its utility will pass that of Google in a few years time. Naturally. Facebook knows it. That’s why they are not in hurry to do everything right away. I actually think Facebook in its current form is a predecessor to a much smarter human-centralized Internet of tomorrow.

  10. Craig Says:

    @Lee

    I don’t buy it.

    Google is *great* at searching for information on web sites. And that capability will be near impossible to surpass.

    Facebook is getting *great* at soliciting/filtering trusted recommendations, referrals and opinions.

    I think they’re q

  11. Craig Says:

    oops… I think they’re quite different areas of expertise. And consumers will continue to need to both.

    But it will be interesting to watch this play out!

  12. Lee Says:

    @Craig

    Of course Google is the king of search considering that it’s always been. But you’re forgetting that Microsoft has 10% share in Facebook for a reason greater than the juicy shares. It is also a route (if not the only one for that sake) to seriously take on Google. And most of all, search is only a feature. FB is like a central network, my first point of call. Search as a feature can be included and to some degree it is now already included. I agree, the search interface on Facebook now doesn’t offer much but it is only a beginning. But you can undoubtedly use Facebook search to search for web results -which are powered by Bing.

    There are clear signs of that – Microsoft is improving almost all properties to compete effectively with Google. Office Online, Bing maps, Windows Live like Live Mail, Messenger, closing deals with other supergigantes to ensure MS products will be visible/utilized there etc. See the only difference between why 8 out of 10 people use Google as their primary search engine is that they have not needed to switch. That will change with Facebook.

    Facebook is evolving. And like I said they are not in hurry. The search interface will one day be a firm part of Facebook interface, mind my words. That day, a lot of people will switch from Google to FB. Because for most people, search is search and you can search as well with Google as you can with Bing.

    See if it’s not for search, Google has practically nothing other than lot of dollar eating projects. Search is where 90+ percent of its revenue comes from. The article will have disturbed many Google shareholders!

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    There are clear signs of that – Microsoft is improving almost all properties to compete effectively with Google. Office Online, Bing maps, Windows Live like Live Mail, Messenger, closing deals with other supergigantes to ensure MS products will be visible/utilized there etc. See the only difference between why 8 out of 10 people use Google as their primary search engine is that they have not needed to switch. That will change with Facebook.

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  17. Paul dubstep software tutorials Says:

    I think were moving towards a complete dynamic internet whereby the focus is more on the individual user than targeting groups. Google interestingly has started its own social networking site Google+. If Google can really surpass Facebook completely we may see more significant changes.

  18. Greg Says:

    People are doing more “personalized” targeting in the form of behavioral targeting. But there’s also an emphasis on demographic groups simultaneously: Facebook and various ad networks (and DSPs) focus on demographics.

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