Google Flailing Wildly as Facebook Nears IPO

Facebook is nearing their IPO and Google is scared of the competition. But is Google responding in the right way?

Facebook could be filing the papers for its initial public offering as early as next week. Many analysts are arguing over Facebook’s possible $100 Billion valuation and the company’s potential for future growth. All while Google is hunched in a corner, teeth out, and growling.

On January 10th, amid much controversy, Google announced Search Plus Your World. In addition, Google now requires all new users to sign up for Google+. Google is also revising their privacy policy, allowing all their separate apps to share your information. Those are a lot of changes in a short period of time.

While Google and Facebook are two completely different companies in terms of user experience, they’re actually extremely similar in a business sense. Both make their money off of advertising to users. It is often forgotten that Facebook and Google are not products made for users. Instead, users are just a part of the product that’s being sold to companies.

By this token, both companies take two separate approaches to providing experiences and retaining users. Google is all about serving people the information they want. Facebook is about the social discovery of information.

The crux of the argument, then, is which approach is more valuable?

Judging by Google’s recent changes,¬†Larry Page believes that social discovery of information will monetize¬†better. Search Plus Your World gives your Google+ friends a say in your search results. Having every Google app talk with each other, as per the new privacy policy, provides more of an incubated, Facebook-like, experience. There are even rumors that gmail and other apps will soon be aspects of Google+, in much the same way that messaging is part of the Facebook experience.

In my opinion, Facebook has only begun to monetize their user base of >800 million active users. The next big step for Facebook will be entering the search market, becoming a direct competitor to Google. A search engine based on most shared pages rather than most linked to pages will provide a completely new experience, and would definitely steal a significant portion of Google’s market share. Users already spend a large amount of their time on Facebook. The introduction of a build in search, one that provides an alternate search experience (rather than a reproduction of Google’s search algorithm), could be bad news for Google.

Google is making the wrong move by becoming more social. They should be focusing more on being open and serving unbiased search results. The threat of Facebook search is very real (I predict that it will roll out within a year of Facebook’s IPO) and Google is flailing in response. Google should be focusing on ways to differentiate themselves from their competition, not mimicking them.

Google, it’s time to man up, stop trying to copy Facebook, and focus on the user.

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