Silicon Alley Insider is discussing an interesting analysis suggesting that Facebook could be a “Google Killer” thanks to Facebook’s greater rate of growth and the suggestion that Facebook now accounts for 19% of incoming Google unique user traffic, up from 9% a year ago.
My intuitive take on this is that the analysis is misleading and seriously flawed for several reasons:
1) Rates of growth will tend to be vastly larger as sites approach the market saturation levels we have with Google and I think we may soon have with Facebook. The new 800 pound Gorilla on the social scene is Twitter which is growing at over 1000% last year. You can’t 10x your current traffic for long without exhausting all people on earth, so all these rates must slow, and soon. e.g. at 1000% annual growth with 5,000,000 unique users you’ll exhaust earth’s population in about 3 years, 2 months.
3) Monetization of Social Media sucks, and will continue to suck. Google can easily monetize searches for things where Facebook continues to struggle to find ways to turn the vast numbers of views into big money. Although they are likely to make modest progress, I do not see social networking as potentially all that lucrative where keyword search, almost by definition, remains the best high value internet monetizing framework.
4) The claim that 19% of Google uniques from Facebook seems very, very dubious. This number appears to be from Comscore and does not even make sense. Facebook searches do not generally direct people to Google, so presumably this is suggesting that a staggering number of people leave Facebook to go do a search at Google? I’m trying to find more detail about this but it does not pass the sniff test even if they are simply stating that people tend to jump to Google after visiting Facebook, which is correlation and probably not causation.
This suggests that Facebook’s 236m uniques drive (.19 x 772m) = 146m uniques to Google? Something is Facebook fishy here.
I am confident that all three of these applications will continue to thrive because each is filling a different online need and doing the job well. There is no need to converge online activity more than has already been done. For example it’s not inconvenient to switch to your banking or travel booking website for those tasks, and many probably prefer this to having a single “one stop shop” for all online activity. Ironically Facebook’s attempts to imitate Twitter may actually accelerate the growth of Twitter which seems to be a better way to communicate quickly and effectively and superficially with many contacts. Facebook, however, has been making good progress with their “open social” efforts that allow users to log in to other sites easily and then post blog comments and other activity to their Facebook account. Facebook will thrive but as the recent revaluations / downward valuations suggest Facebook is no Google and will never be Google. Search trumps social in terms of making money, and the mother’s milk of internet growth and to some extent innovation is …. money (though I’d say innovation is fueled by the lure of wealth as much as real wealth).