Vincenzo Cosenza put together this map of the most popular social networks by country, according to Alexa & Google Trends for Websites traffic data* (June 2009). He used Many Eyes by IBM which looks like a neat tool for visualisation of data.
It is not so long ago that your internet experience went something like this:
- Connect to Internet
- Check your webmail account
- Check your favourite sites
- Go to Google to search for something
Then came RSS/webfeeds which allowed you to centralise most of the above into a single page – your personalised home page. There are plenty of options – iGoogle, Microsoft Live.com, My Yahoo and Netvibes (which I use) to name a few.
This was supposed to be the page that became your first port of call and Google has been leading the way.
..except something has happened to divert people away from it.
How did this happen? Well actually most people online never really got to that second stage of using a personalised homepage. It was just a bit too geeky and difficult to use. It still is. Instead they joined Facebook in the millions and stored all their info there.
I keep hearing stories of teenagers who say that they use Facebook to message their friends and only "oldies" use email. Photos are stored on there; quick updates (a la Twitter) are submitted there and now you can even play games and chat in there.
So it’s fast becoming a user’s first point of call, integrating your life offline – online. As many have pointed out, it contains a significant amount of info about your life. This has rapidly pushed privacy to the fore.
So where is the threat to Google? Well Google survives by scavenging off the information you leave behind when using its products. So if you are no longer using its products then there’s a problem.
What if Facebook added a search bar for the web into its platform. Since you are there already will you use it? I think that’s only likely if its good enough.. but Yahoo and possibly Microsoft Search isn’t that much behind Google in terms of quality – it’s just habit that keeps Google where it is.
Or Facebook added:
a decent calendar service..
..or a decent email platform
If they can do it well enough.. those teenagers will be shifting away from Google to.. yes you guessed it.. Facebook’s platform.
What would be more interesting would be if Facebook opened up its messaging platform – allowed 3rd party providers to provide the solutions. Oh its doing that already.. but not enough.
First they need to get the privacy right though..
[update] Just read that Facebook signed a deal with Microsoft to place Microsoft adCenter sponsored links and other ads on Facebook and that now there is talk that Microsoft is possibly looking at a £150m-£250m investment in exchange for 5% of the company. That values Facebook at a cool £5bn. More importantly, it would place Microsoft in a stronger position for access to Facebook’s userbase.