Not too long ago, you would fire up your browser, point it to www.google.com, and that little search box would take you anywhere you wanted on the Internet. You’d read up on the news, see what the world was up to, check your emails, and maybe indulge in a bit of forum flame-war on the side.
Today, the first port of call for many is not Google, but Facebook. We wake up in the morning, check our mobiles or our laptop, and Facebook tells us what our friends are up to and what they think of what you thought or said or did.
There were other social networks when Facebook debuted, but like Google it was exponentially better than the competition. Facebook is about sharing information as opposed to finding it. You don’t necessarily search for stuff. You are shown stuff. A social network and a search engine are two fundamentally different things
Our news we get from our social newsfeeds, curated by those we connect to.
Convergence theory comes into play here, pointing out that we are more likely to share interests in common with our friends, and so for many, these human-curated newsfeeds are exponentially better than any RSS feed or Google Alert. Our forums have died out; now we argue across pages, comment threads and instant group conversations. Our emails are still hanging in there, but most of that has now moved to Facebook chats.
Indeed, for many, Facebook is the representation of the web. In Sri Lanka, there are thousands who, when queried, will say “Internet na (I don’t have Internet access) habai Facebook yanna puluwang (but I CAN go on Facebook).” In their minds, Facebook is so self-sufficient that it literally is the be-all-end-all of the Internet
Unless it’s something official, it just makes no sense to go to a second site anymore.
Facebook is on its way to become even more self-sufficient now, thanks to recent features that let publishers post their content directly onto Facebook itself. Incidentally, it also is now an advertising behemoth, getting advertisers to pay and promote content on their pages. And while Google has its moonshot projects like Loon, Facebook has its own utterly-out-of-the-box projects – including Internet.org, the quest to connect everyone on the planet for free. So far, Internet.org connects 1 billion people – about a seventh of the world’s population. It’s buying startups left, right and center – WhatsApp, Occulus, the works
Google is famous for ‘knowing everything’. But Facebook knows everything personal: what your friends are thinking, what they’re reading, watching, where they’re been, who they’re dating.
In order to understand where they stand, we have to examine the foundation on which these two companies are built. Google is built on a search engine. When it debuted, there were other search engines, but Google did it exponentially better. Google is built on the core tenets of finding information.
Facebook is built on the power of humans connecting to each other. There were other social networks when Facebook debuted, but like Google it was exponentially better than the competition. Facebook is about sharing information as opposed to finding it. You don’t necessarily search for stuff. You are shown stuff. A social network and a search engine are two fundamentally different things (and despite Google’s effort’s to integrate the two, they seem to prefer being separate). One is a search for knowledge. The other is validation of your existence.