I was one of the doubters.
I saw the way my friends evolved their interactions with Facebook over the past few years and issued a death certificate for the platform. My friends had changed from sharing every detail and spending hours, upon hours staring at their News Feed daily to not logging in for days.
A few times, they tried to quit Facebook entirely, only to be dragged back by friends’ encouragement and “missing out” on life events of contacts.
That’s where I made my mistake. I didn’t see the forrest for the trees -- Facebook was becoming ubiquitous, and something -- like regular society -- that people couldn’t quit. It wasn’t an addiction, it was just really useful.
Facebook has set itself up to take on Google in a big way. It’s the hackers at Facebook against the engineers at Google -- and the hackers have a really good shot at winning. Here’s why.
Identity -- Facebook has the potential to succeed where OpenID failed. With Facebook Platform and the huge benefits companies like Fab.com and Spotify have seen from building on the Open Graph, I only see more Web sites giving you the chance to login via Facebook. Facebook could easily become your default identity online.
Social Search -- Right now, Facebook is killing Google in terms of self-reported knowledge. Sure Google knows what I search for or what emails I get, but it doesn’t know what I actually like and don’t like. It seems a much easier leap for Facebook to expand into search based on socially-relevant results than for Google to get the information I’ve already given to Facebook on Google+. Facebook already has the filter and the data is easier to acquire.
Location and Mobile -- Facebook now has Instagram in it’s back pocket for mobile photos and the recently acquired Gowalla team working on location. Layer Instagram on search within Facebook and tie it with location, and I’ve got the chance to see pictures from friends of their meal at a local restaurant, at their favorite vacation spot and all sorts of other random activities that are the backbone of mobile photography. Couple that with check-ins, tips and reviews on a newly revamped location platform and Facebook becomes so useful you can’t even think about taking it off your smartphone.
In the same way that Apple evolves to improve upon itself, Facebook is pushing an envelope it already owns. Google seems a lot like Microsoft, evolving when forced and at a slow an meticulous pace, devoid of emotion and feeling, the foundation of what the next level of connectedness is based upon.
Even after Facebook’s upcoming IPO -- a hugely troublesome event for Google that seemed to lead to it losing its focus -- Mark Zuckerberg will still own 57% of the Facebook voting stock. His focused efforts could see Facebook leave Google in its rearview mirror.