A collision that could shake the web to its foundations

There is no denying the fact that Facebook is a rolling force on the Internet that grows in size daily. Not only does it grow as far as users are concerned but it is also growing data wise at an astonishing rate as all those new users upload pictures, videos and talk back and forth. With more than 850 million photos uploaded each month and 10 million videos stored on their servers Facebook also shares more than 1 billion pieces of content each week.

For Facebook it is all about having the people using its service believe that Facebook is providing them with a home on the web where they can gather with friends, where they can share their stuff, and where they can find out what their friends think of products and services. It is this place that Facebook strives to give the illusion of openness while at the same time making sure that none of the potentially lucrative data they are collecting every minute after every second.

Google on the other hand is an engineers wet dream where everything is dictated by numbers and algorithms. Everything is done to make sure that the human touch is as minimal as possible. Their job is to try and index all the the information in the world regardless of its format, and get rich in the process as they use that data to feed their advertising network. If it can be sliced and diced Google will make sure it gets done.

However they are both going after the same thing in the end – massive advertising budgets built around company brands. Compared to those budgets Google’s current ad funded business, DavidGoliathand profits, is just a drop in the ocean. For Facebook even a portion of it would send it into profitability and remove the last stumbling block holding it back from being able to take on Google toe to toe – and trust me it will happen.

Already Facebook is in position to cause Google a lot of financial pain as more and more traffic is being driven blogs and websites from within the walls of Facebook. The battle of SEO supremacy may already have been lost without a shot being fired. Google’s big guns of SEO have come up against an enemy that doesn’t need to rank anything because its members are more interested in what their friends suggest rather than cold analytically produced results. To top it off Facebook is the biggest part of the web that Google’s spiders can’t crawl.

As Mike Wasylik suggested to bloggers on the Copyblogger blog today

But the rise of Facebook creates a growing segment of the web that’s completely invisible to search engines – most of which, Facebook blocks – and can be seen only by logged-in Facebook users. So as Facebook becomes ever larger, and keeps more users inside its walled garden, your web site will need to appear in Facebook’s feeds and searches or you will miss out on an important source of web traffic.

This is a dark web that not even can see into or negotiate its way into. To think that Google is blind to more than 1 billion bits of information a week, and growing. Even through their Facebook destination-facebookConnect and letting their users browser to other sites they are still keeping all that activity information behind the Facebook wall. Information that it hopes will be incredibly attractive to all those companies looking to spend their big budget brand advertising dollars.

Things like AdWords and search driven advertising are great for providing people with a variety of companies willing to sell them something. As rich as that kind of advertising may have made Google, brand advertising could make them wealthy beyond belief. However they have a problem and it comes back to the root difference between the two companies. Google is algorithm driven whereas Facebook is people driven and brand advertising doesn’t work well with algorithms but on the other hand it works very well with people.

Fred Vogelstein puts it this way in a post on wired.com

For the last decade or so, the Web has been defined by Google’s algorithms—rigorous and efficient equations that parse practically every byte of online activity to build a dispassionate atlas of the online world. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg envisions a more personalized, humanized Web, where our network of friends, colleagues, peers, and family is our primary source of information, just as it is offline. In Zuckerberg’s vision, users will query this “social graph” to find a doctor, the best camera, or someone to hire—rather than tapping the cold mathematics of a Google search. It is a complete rethinking of how we navigate the online world, one that places Facebook right at the center. In other words, right where Google is now.

It is inevitable that a time will come when the search titan will be challenged directly by the people driven titan in the making. There incredible amounts of money at stake, more so that even the hotly contested search space. Where even single percentage points in gains and losses can amount to millions this new brand advertising space could see those same percentage points worth billions.

The battle between Google and Microsoft pales in comparison to the one that is forming on the horizon between Google and Facebook. It is a battle that could very well shake the Web to its foundations and change how the Web used forever – or at least until some new upstart titan in the making comes along.

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