Why Google Is Wrong To Obsess About Facebook
I closed my Facebook account several months ago and have since enjoyed time not spent on the social network, spending it much more productively and enjoyably elsewhere. Now, for full disclosure: being in web development I can not ignore Facebook so I still have a developer account, to keep up with the platform, but I do not use Facebook for anything personal.
I did not close my account because of Facebook’s attitude towards privacy. I did understand privacy implications; I did have all the “right” settings configured to minimize the impact and while slightly annoyed with their approach (disregard?) to privacy, I was generally OK to continue using the service. But I closed the account when it simply stopped providing meaningful benefit to me.
And that is the key to most social networks: the novelty wears off quite quickly. Initially they seem like the best thing since sliced bread, but soon enough it’s just the same boring routine, turning into a waste of time eventually. In order to not sound fixated on Facebook, it was even more so the case with Quora, for me. Initial reaction to Quora was amazing. I could ask a question to a GitHub founder and get a response in a day. Direct response! How cool is that? But then again: how many “Githubs” am I going to find on Quora, and how many founders of those do I care to ask a question to? The model is not sustainable if you want people coming back every day. And social networks can not survive without users coming back every day, even: several times a day.
Of course: nobody understands this trait of social networks better than Mark Zuckerberg. That’s why he keeps the company constantly on the edge: always changing things, always adding features. This is why he turned Facebook into a platform, rather than a single app: so other companies could join into the eco-system and help innovate, help diversify. This is why Facebook has been as successful as it has, and why nobody even remembers MySpace, anymore.
However, it is also why Google should stop obsessing about Facebook. The thing is, Google provides an essential service: search for a vast amount of content. As far as they keep being good at it, there will never be time when we do not need search or when we decide we are too bored with search. Don’t get me wrong: Google still needs to keep innovating to improve the service and adapt to changing demand, but the core business model is sustainable in perpetuity: it’s an essential service. Facebook is not. Much like MySpace, Facebook can go away and nobody would as much as flinch.
I think it’s a safe bet to say that: in 5 years Facebook will either not exist at all, or be so different that it will have almost nothing to do with the Facebook we know today. I am sure that the same statement is not true for Google Search.
This is why, in my opinion, Google executives should stop obsessing about how much traffic Facebook gets today and what Facebook does TODAY, instead they should worry about their own bread and butter: search, and they should target where Facebook may be going tomorrow. What if next time Zuckerberg pivots his company he decides to “reinvent” search?
THAT would be something to worry about, but as far as Google Plus goes, sorry to break it: it’s a waste of Google’s time.