if Google should be afraid of Facebook. Alex concluded that, no, Facebook is not in the same league as Google and Larry and Sergey should be breathing easy. I'll briefly offer a contrarian view in light of the massive influx of cash that Facebook received yesterday, and more importantly, who it came from.This morning we published a great piece by my colleague Alex Iskold that asked
Alex argues that in order for Facebook to compete on Google's level, they will need "serious cash." Yesterday's $240 million investment from Microsoft is not chump change, and if unsubstantiated rumors pan out, the total amount that Facebook raised could be nearer to $750 million. That may still be a marketing error for Google, but enough for Facebook to expand comfortably for awhile. And what if Facebook gets into search?
In order to do that, said Alex, "they would have to build their own search engine or partner with someone." The former was always unlikely, but the latter is exactly what they've done. And not only did they partner with any someone, they partnered with someone who 1. is already gunning for Google in the search space, and 2. is already the 3rd most used search engine (in the US) according to comScore.
Greg Sterling predicted this morning that Microsoft Live Search on Facebook was all but inevitable -- and I'd have to agree. It's a no-brainer. Google already powers search on MySpace, Yahoo! does on bebo, so Live Search on Facebook makes sense -- the technical investment is minuscule and the potential return is mammoth. If Facebook's 30 million monthly users start using Microsoft for web searches, that could have a significant impact on the market.
Deepak, a commenter on Alex's post this morning, isn't buying it. "Not sure a search box will work," he wrote. "[The] search box for Firefox gets all [my] use. My Portal is my browser." If it is indeed the case that people generally use their browser's search box for the majority of their searching, then a Microsoft search box on Facebook may not make much of a dent. But, I do not think that is how the average Internet user behaves. Google is the default search engine on Firefox, which has about 15% of the market, while Live is the default search engine for Internet Explorer, which has about 78.5% of the market. And yet, Google controls 57% of the search market, and Microsoft just of 10%. So clearly, the browser search box is less of a factor than other entry points.
So why should Google worry? As Alex points out, Google is an advertising company, but one that is still very reliant on search. And while Facebook still has yet to prove that it can really monetize its traffic, Microsoft has certainly proven that they can make serviceable search technology. Facebook already fields over 600 million searches per month -- if they can turn those site searches into web searches, that would be a boon for Microsoft.
"Exposing the huge Facebook audience to Live Search and monetizing that traffic with paid results is, I'm guessing, a powerful motivator behind this investment," wrote Greg Sterling today. I agree. Facebook on its own probably wasn't enough to worry Google. But Microsoft with a hook into Facebook's large and rapidly growing user base, might make them look over their shoulder with a bit more apprehension.