An analyst report this morning predicts that Facebook - which has been reporting impressive growth numbers - could surpass Google in traffic within the next 2-3 years. That's a prediction that could use a few asterisks.
The report - issued by analyst Ross Sandler of RBC and reported on Silicon Alley Insider - notes that Google and Facebook are actually more like buddies these days. After all, the number of Google sessions generated via Facebook has nearly doubled - from 9 percent last year to 19 percent. Among Sandler's key points:
Facebook is actually positive and complementary for Google thus far, but that could change if Facebook's rapid growth trajectory continues on its current path, or if/when social media can find a business model and attract ad dollars from other online media.
Oh, right. A business model and revenue plan. Facebook needs one. You'll recall that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last year that he's focused on growing the number of users and is giving the company a few years - until 2011 - before jumping into a plan for bringing in money.
All economy issues aside, I still maintain that waiting so long may not be the best approach. Social media types are fickle and, in the Internet age, the big thing today may be overshadowed by something new tomorrow. Just look at how quickly Facebook overpowered MySpace in popularity.
Already, Twitter seems to be stealing some thunder from Facebook. Just this week, numbers from Nielsen Online found that Twitter grew by 1,382 percent in February, compared to a year ago, and registered more than 7 million unique visitors in the U.S. for the month, up 50 percent from the 4.5 million uniques a month earlier. (Check out Nielsen's chart below) Facebook, by comparison was up a still-impressive 228 percent. MySpace was down 4 percent.
Speaking for myself, I am spending much more time on Twitter. And I'm starting to see many more of my Facebook contacts on Twitter too. I know that a handful of people - myself included - are so turned off by the new design that we're not spending nearly as much time on Facebook as we did before the new look. The new design is frustrating, clunky and, quite frankly, not worth spending the time to figure it out. (Are you listening, Mark?)
With that said, I wouldn't be surprised to see Facebook traffic start slipping in the coming months - or at least for the growth to slow. Doesn't sound to me like Google should be immediately threatened by Facebook's growth.