Google or Facebook: Content will always be king
Google and Facebook are at war. The prize in this epic battle between the world's two biggest online brands is control over the future of the internet. Journalists love their hyperbole, which makes pitching Google and Facebook against one another irresistible. But, if we take a step back and try to remain objective, a prolonged period of intense competition between the two firms does seem rather inevitable.
Google remains the most successful search engine on the planet. In key markets, such as the US, it accounts for upwards of 75% of all search activity, with Bing / Yahoo still struggling to claim a meatier share.
The rather bold mission statement of the Mountain View firm is to organise the world's information. What this means in reality is that whatever you do online or might want to do in the future, Google wants your eyeballs on one of its sites while you're doing it. Hence the extension beyond search to everything from email to spreadsheets.
Its rival for the lucrative spot at the centre of the online universe is Facebook, the social networking site. With as many active members as America has citizens, Facebook provides a platform for people to connect with friends, contacts and like-minded individuals to share status updates, photos, links and the like.
As the internet grows at an exponential rate it is getting harder and harder to index everything, even if you run the world's largest server farm. The sheer volume of new sites, new pages and new content is also making it trickier for the most sophisticated of algorithms to find exactly what users want, nevermind presenting it in an accessible form.
Facebook fancies itself as the solution to this problem. Cutting through the fog of an increasingly crowded online environment, the social network will present users with results based on the behaviour and recommendations of its huge community of members. In a recent deal with Microsoft (yesterday's challenger to Google's crown) Bing searches now use Facebook recommendations to inform some results.
It is logical to assume that the opinions and buying habits of Facebook contacts would be of interest to online shoppers. Research has suggested a strong link between Facebook "Likes" (the button websites can install to allow visitors to recommend content to their Facebook friends) and interest in particular brands.
Does this mean that "Facebook it" will replace "Google it" in common parlance? Not any time soon. Google does though face competition from lots of different angles. Facebook not only has a huge user base but is constantly looking for ways to leverage it. Baidu, China's biggest search engine and the world's sixth largest website, is looming on the horizon, as millions more citizens of the world's most populous country get rich enough to go online. Niche search engines will become more appealing as the internet's phenomenal growth continues and mobile users, increasingly relevant as bandwidth and device capability improve, have already shown their preference for apps.
The constant in all this change and excitement is quality content. Whether the platform is a website, a Facebook page or a mobile app, publishing original, relevant and engaging material will give individuals and organisations the best chance of being found by their target audience – because that's what Google is trying to do, and if Google's dominance wanes, that's also what its successors will try to do.