There’s a very high chance that if you use the internet at all during the day, two of your visits will include Google and Facebook. One rose from the dot-com boom and bust while the other grew from a college dorm. Regardless of your personal opinion of either company, it’s undeniable the impact they have had and continue to have on the internet.
The common element between the two is the internet. From there, their paths diverge before looping back to almost cross, but not quite. As the digital landscape continues to change as technology often does, both can be counted on to provide core services while introducing new ideas.
But First, a Very Brief History
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were graduate students at Stanford University when they registered the domain name in September 1997. By the end of the next year, Google had been named search engine of choice by PC Magazine.
Then in October 2000, the company launched AdWords. Along to its expansive network of products, AdWords has become the key component in Google’s ability to make money as a search engine. It has since spawned AdSense which allows non-Google websites to access the company’s display advertising. This may not seem like a big impact, but it has been a near cash cow for Google. AdSense alone generated $15 billion of Google’s total ad revenue in 2015.
If you’ve spent any time either hanging out in college dorms or know people who have, you’ve heard of schemes and plans developed there. Thanks to some Harvard undergrads, the internet changed forever in January 2004. That’s when Mark Zuckerberg registered thefacebook.com. What he and a handful of others thought would take months to get any traction among even Harvard students had more than one million registered users by the time it was rolled out to other college campuses at the end of 2004. From there, Facebook grew by leaps and bounds before its initial public offering (IPO) on Feb. 1, 2012. With a valuation of $104 billion, Facebook’s was the largest to date for a new company going public.
Here is “Mark Zuckerberg’s FACEBOOK Story” courtesy of the YouTube success mentor Evan Carmichael.
But What Do They Do Beyond Social Media and Search Engine?
Both companies have purchased or acquired more than 50 other companies since their respective inceptions, with Google leading the way with 182 since 1998. Their largest purchase was Motorola in 2011 for $12.5 billion but sold it again two years later after it was deemed unprofitable. Other purchases of note for Google have been YouTube and Waze, a GPS-based navigation app.
While Facebook is relatively young compared to Google, they’ve wasted no time in buying other companies. With 61 acquisitions to date, they focus on other startup companies with the type of employee talent Facebook wants from an improvement standpoint. With that in mind, Facebook’s two most notable acquisitions have been Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014.
But these tech giants don’t only buy and acquire others; they’re also building and creating products. For Google, they offer more than 200, including Smarty Pins, a Trivial Pursuit meets Google Maps blend of having one quick round turning into half an hour later.
Facebook’s 12 products may not be products in the sense that users expect. But when broken down, the Profile is separate from the News Feed, Groups, Events, Video, and Photo. The social network also features Pages, Instagram, Free Basics by Facebook and Facebook Lite. The latter is aimed at users with older phones and slower connections in emerging markets. It appears to be working as intended as Lite surpassed 200 million users globally.
How Have Their Algorithms Changed?
As with any algorithm, the ones used by Google and Facebook intend on solving the ‘problem’ posed by a user. For Google, to better assist users, they change their algorithm between 500 and 600 times each year. If a major change is going to be unveiled, it gets a specific name, such as Penguin in fall 2016. People are most aware of these algorithm changes. Google kicked off 2017 by announcing the Intrusive Interstitial Penalty change to the algorithm. This change targets websites which use aggressive interstitials and pop-ups that hurt the mobile user experience.
Facebook users are almost immune to hearing about yet another algorithm change to the social network. It’s always adjusting its algorithm for what appears on your newsfeed and what doesn’t. The first major change came in September 2006 when Facebook rolled out the news feed and status updates. Most recently in January 2017, the algorithm began prioritizing what videos appear in your newsfeed. It’s based on percent completion rate, meaning if more users in your friend’s list watch the video to its end, the more likely it will appear in your newsfeed.
Is Facebook a Search Engine?
Not yet. Zuckerberg announced during the fourth quarter sales call in 2013 the company was working on Graph Search. This feature aims to help people find more information through friends and other connections. It’ll be a semantic search engine, differing from Google through intended meaning such as matching phrases and objects on a website instead of keywords. To do this, Facebook’s artificial intelligence unit is already working with the data collected by Facebook from its users to build Graph Search. But don’t log into Facebook and start trying to use it as a search engine. During the same sales call, Zuckerberg said the project is expected to take 10 years to complete before it’s rolled out.
Facebook, on the other hand, is oft noted and much maligned for its constant tinkering of the algorithm, privacy changes come in a close second for them. When the company rolled out more than 10 overall changes in 2011, they provided users a tutorial to understand what had happened. But through it all, even the most ‘locked down’ profile will still have public elements to it. As a user, if you’re concerned about what could be public, we recommend periodically checking your privacy settings. With the expansion of Graph Search well underway, it’s unclear what elements of a profile will still be kept private based on a user’s settings and what could be included.
Leaders in What They Do, but What’s Next?
Google has become a verb in the lexicon for many. And unless it appears on Facebook, it isn’t official or so it’s said. So what does this mean for them?
When we look at Google, the two clear future challenges come down to growing competition and what role will the company itself play in social media, if any. As a search engine, Google came to be toward the end of the dot-com boom of the late 1990s and survived the later collapse. It outlasted and surpassed Infoseek, Ask Jeeves, Lycos, AltaVista, and Yahoo, among countless others. And while several search engines of yester years were rebranded and relaunched, they still played second fiddle to Google. So how can Google not be the clear cut leader today for search engines?
Because the competition is improving, for one. And with competition, users have many options for search on the internet. Bing, the latest iteration of Microsoft’s search engines, continues to trend upward according to comScore, holding a 21.4 percent search engine market share. This is significant because of the stronghold Google has, holding a 64 percent share as of February 2016.
A second reason was mentioned earlier in the blog. Other companies not developed to be search engines are testing the waters and aiming to further personalize a search experience for users, like Facebook. Big data, analytics, and metrics are broken down each day by people whose sole job is to do that. As technology, techniques, and ideas continue to evolve, Google may not be the king forever.
Then there’s the social media angle. For Google, they were a little late to the party, but are still lingering with the guests. Google+ was introduced to be the next Facebook, but the social network quickly languished and resulted in many think pieces wondering if it is dead.
Well, it’s not. Instead, Google+ is an underutilized area for many businesses as it continues to grow by 33 percent each year. While the average time a Google+ user spends on each visit is under four minutes, Americans make up 55 percent of the users. Spending some time customizing your content toward Google+ and engaging with users could be well worth it financially.
But how does Google keep going in the social media arena when their network is an afterthought for many? After spending $585 million to build Google+, one would think the company could try to periodically remind people of how it’s different than Facebook and other social networks. Or it’s poised as the best-kept secret in social media.
As Facebook continues its expansion into growing markets abroad, it also has several challenges to contend with. To us and many others, an area rife with contention is ‘fake news’. As more and more people lean on online sources for information and news about the world around them and beyond, Facebook is in a delicate position. On one hand, the ease of sharing anything found online fuels its networking goal. But the rise of fake news during the United States’ 2016 presidential election left many wondering if Facebook and others should crackdown. How they decide to handle the situation will be watched by everyone.
Another challenge for the social media leader is its sheer size, which leads to the question are they too big to fail? Like Google, Facebook has outlasted several of its social network predecessors, including MySpace. True, the digital landscape has evolved at light speed since MySpace reached its peak in 2007. But is there a social network dark horse primed to overtake Facebook in the next five to 10 years? Time will tell.
While the argument can be made Facebook is too big to fail, or not, could it be considered a social media monopoly? By definition, it’s not. To be a true monopoly, Facebook would have to have near or complete control of social media. But the argument can be made they do dominate the landscape, and when they jump, others follow with changes or adaptations to their social network. As with any large company or corporation, there are near endless arguments that can be made for or against their size and the impact it has on competition.
That’s our take on Google and Facebook and the challenges they face in the coming months and years. What do you think these internet giants will face? Let us know in the comments and on our Facebook page!
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