Why Facebook Will Kick Google's Posterior

It's decided. We are no longer fans of brands, or companies, or music groups, or movies. Instead, we like them. So says Facebook, and what Facebook says, goes.

"We would still prefer to have 'fans' not 'likers' -- what do you think?" said some friends on their Facebook page, and the general response is that people prefer fans. But so what?

The difference between fans and likers is perhaps negligible, and certainly not worth getting worked up over. But when Facebook made everyone's personal details public by default, making it nearly impossible to reverse, we reacted in almost exactly the same way: "Oh, well, that sort of peeves me off... what's for dinner?"

What's behind our inability to stay mad at Facebook? Regular readers of this column may recall a story I wrote last year about my father and the power of habit. In it, I made the point that our Google habit is so ingrained that, by the time we even think to use a different search engine, we're already staring at blue links.



That's a pretty strong habit. But Facebook's hold on us is infinitely stronger than that. Google has said over and over again that competition is only a click away, and it's true -- other search engines will still give us plenty of viable results. But Facebook effectively has no competition. Even if we remember to try a different social network, there's no point. The whole purpose of a social network is to be social, and if nobody's there, there's no social.

Our memories of Facebook's behavioral violations are like goldfish, and they have to be: it's a self-protective mechanism. The simple truth is that, as individuals, we're stuck there. At this point, Zuckerberg's cyborg doesn't win on features. It wins because the primary reason we go there is to connect with everyone else who's there; as long as everyone else is there, that's where we're going to go.

This may seem like an obvious point, but it's critical. No matter how mad they make us, they are effectively holding all our friends and loved ones hostage. It's a voluntary form of hostage, to be sure, but everyone would have to make their escape at the same time in order to overcome it.

And you'd better believe the folks at the head office know this. There's no other way to explain their "ask forgiveness, not permission" approach to new privacy settings, with the launch of open graph repeating many of Beacon's transgressions. As my MediaPost colleague Wendy Davis wrote yesterday, "Facebook has made the maddening decision to require users to opt out four separate times. First, users must visit their Facebook settings and uncheck the allow-personalization box. Next, users who want to prevent the sharing of their information by friends, must visit another section of Facebook's settings and block Microsoft Docs, Pandora and Yelp separately.

Presumably as Facebook adds new partners, users will have to revisit their settings and opt out yet again."

It's insane to think we'll put up with this, but we will. Facebook's combined the habitual power of Google with the gravitational force of everyone we know. The only thing that would change their behavior is the thing least likely to happen: that enough intrepid souls populate another social network to create a viable competitor.

Can you see Facebook being undone anytime soon? Do you think there will be a price to pay for its cavalier approach to privacy? Let me know in the comments or via @kcolbin.

13 comments about "Why Facebook Will Kick Google's Posterior".
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  1. Brenna Holmes from Adams Hussey & Associates, April 27, 2010 at 11:18 a.m.

    This is exactly on point. FB has reached that critical mass that makes the main reason previous holdouts join is because everyone they know & love is already on FB and constantly badgers them about not having a profile!

  2. Deanna Mcneil from Ruiz McPherson Communications, April 27, 2010 at 11:25 a.m.

    Admittedly, no one has created a social network as "fun to use" as Facebook. It is maddening indeed and I do think there will be a price to pay one day, involving the violation of someone's privacy that is potentially harmful as we saw with Google Buzz. Of course, who will step in but the FCC creating rules no one is happy about.

  3. Millard Younts from EnVest Media, April 27, 2010 at 11:37 a.m.

    I see FB demographics aging. No longer the age 12-18, "got-to-be-there", party photo posting social fun spot, it is for gray haired late Baby Boomers using it for people reconnecting and social-political commentary.

  4. Thom Kennon from Free Radicals, April 27, 2010 at 12:07 p.m.

    Kaila's right. It's egregious and/yet/but it works. I imagine this must be how totalitarian regimes sustain their hypnotic sway & lock in the face of massive counterintuitive, downright reverse personal incentives.

    Re a competitor, it is of course when not if. Google made an utter lame attempt with Wave and then acted like they were a little more serious with Buzz. Neither dented the hold FB retains.

    But FB's sun will set and the platform or property that eventually kicks their ass out and ascends the throne may not even been in our bookmarks yet.

    Sample of one guess: is it's going to come from the interwebs land of mobile first, and fixed second & that's how it will pry us loose - first our fingers & pockets and then our hearts & pictures of the kids and Coachella. Mocospace? Foursquare? ... we know you're out there.

    Thom Kennon

  5. Ryan Burt from Lars Marketing, LLC, April 27, 2010 at 1:19 p.m.

    So the headline about kicking Google's ___ is only meant to draw in readers?

  6. Israel Lisovski from Yellow Network, April 27, 2010 at 2:25 p.m.

    I like this point that people "like" to hate and those who on the opposite side likes to be hated. There's a rule to hate when someone or something has a long-term success and an instance for is google and now facebook as well.

  7. Steven Graff from Bloofusion Inc., April 27, 2010 at 6 p.m.

    I have to agree with Ryan, the post title is link baiting.

    As to Ms.Colbin's assertions. Facebook may hold our friends hostage, but amongst my circle of decidedly non-techie mom's, pops, boomer siblings, grandparents, Facebook is a decidedly confusing and frustrating interface and experience that they are convinced into trying and tire of within a month our two. Google and the other SEs are not a frustrating experiences that users have to constantly adjust their privacy settings to feel safe to use

    Facebook may trump Google and other Search Engines for behavioral data, but it is not a search engine and or much of a research tool for anything other than people to most people. Further the facebook users I have studied pull up their favorite SE when on task. Which is still part of 70% of user sessions. So unless research ends as a human activity, search engines will not be disappearing this decade, nor will their advertising revenue stream pale in comparison to FB.

  8. Mia Wenjen from pragmaticmom, April 27, 2010 at 9:43 p.m.

    I have to say that I have recently started using Blog Frog, which is sort of like Facebook combined with Twitter for Moms, particularly Moms who blog. It's a very good and effective site for communication, social networking and getting people to check out your blog. Maybe facebook's competition will be smaller but more targeted like Blog Frog.

  9. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, April 28, 2010 at 2:54 a.m.

    The title is not link-bait if one carries the point to the next logical conclusion: if 200 million people like 5 URLs per day and each of those URLs have FB technology on them pre-loaded with search keyword meta tags, then there will be 1 billion pieces of data generated each day that can decide the relevance of keywords better than Google's algorithm.

    Thus, Facebook can start a search engine (or ally with one) that can give Google a serious run for their money and which will only get better day after day.

  10. James Curran from Lotame, April 28, 2010 at 2:42 p.m.

    "It's a voluntary form of hostage, to be sure, but everyone would have to make their escape at the same time in order to overcome it. "

    You speak as if this isn't possible. Friendster, MySpace... even ICQ could be on that list.

    Don't get me wrong, I agree there is significant power in their new "Like" direction as well... but how soon we forget that the web users move like birds and flock to new things quickly.

    Hence the reason that Google continues to attempt to diversify it's business from just search.

  11. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, April 28, 2010 at 3:32 p.m.

    Facebook will eventually be replaced. And yes even Google will eventually be replaced. Nothing they can do about it. But Google will be around longer because it has so much more than Facebook does. If it combined Buzz, Wave, Mail, Maps, Earth, Street View, Apps etc it would have the biggest baddest social/business network in the Solar System. Until someone else trumps them of course...which will happen.

  12. Andrew Ciccone from Hudson Valley Media, April 28, 2010 at 8:28 p.m.

    Today it's Facebook, tomorrow? The platforms are offering comparable features. As long as Facebook continues to adapt, it will endure. So far so good . . . Stay tuned.

  13. Richard Ray from SOMOLO Enterprises, LLC, April 29, 2010 at 11:21 a.m.

    I feel we have forgotten how FB became in existence; one person at a time! If a new 'better mouse-trap is created', it only takes one person at a time to change and grow the program. Let's not forgot we are talking about Social Networking. As long as the change is a no-brainer. Many of the comments have validity and FB is not the end all, cure all.

    I don't believe that people care about a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend (okay, that's enough). FB reminds me of Solitaire: We played with it for a while until we realize we just waisted 2 hours of our life and regained control of our addiction. People will come to realize FB is a time stealer and get back to the real world.

    We have a dichotomy society and half the people will bore of the mundane aspect of FB and frequent it less often. For the other half that have 'no life' will continue to waist their life in meaningless chatter. And this group is probably not the influencers that marketers are looking for, whom the FB's of the world depend on for advertising dollars.

    There are better platforms under construction as we speak. Stay Tune!

    P.S. I am not saying that FB will not continue to be a part of our culture. I'm just saying half the people out there are ready to just ship on the first life improving Social Network site that comes along.

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