Last Saturday Adam Rifkin published a long and thorough article on TechCrunch predicting that, 5 years from now, Facebook will be bigger than Google.
It goes on to list a number of different industries that Facebook can turn upside down and make huge profits in the process, and they’re all worth a read, but the first point alone (advertising) is enough to rest its case.
When Beacon launched back in 2007, I was insisting that, despite that specific execution was a bit of a fuckup, there were solid reasons why Facebook would inevitably be a better advertising platform than Google. Given the scale it has achieved since then, I find it quite easy to say that it can grow into a bigger one, too.
The problem with Google is that all its ads are driven by search: that’s what made its value proposition unique in the first place (“We show your ads to those who are in market for your product”) but that’s also its insurmountable limitation. Advertising is not always the answer to a question. More often than not, it’s aimed at people who are not even thinking about that question: because they don’t know that they have a certain need, or that a certain product even exists. And that’s ok.
Some of the most interesting things in life, we stumble upon. And then we want them. Google is not designed for this. Its focus on contextual relevance means that it’s actually engineered against this.
Facebook on the other hand does exactly that: it makes it easy to serendipitously discover new things, whether via your friends or via the brands you like. That’s why social shopping is gaining momentum and attracting so much investment: it’s not just because you tend to trust what your friends are buying or recommending; it’s first and foremost because you become aware of products you wouldn’t otherwise have known.
So here it is: Facebook was always destined to be bigger than Google. At least as an advertising platform. And isn’t that how Google makes virtually all its money? Given that advertisers have limited resources, Facebook doesn’t even need to get into search to steal a big chunk of it.