Has Facebook won the web war against Google?

Has Facebook won the web war against Google?

Summary: Privacy issues notwithstanding, Facebook goes full force past Google in driving forward the semantic web


Facebook today launched its latest missile in the war against Google for the trophy of world wide web domination. At F8, the company's developer conference, in San Francisco, CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced the company's "Open Graph", which essentially extends Facebook's "like" feature to a multitude of external web sites, allowing users to feed their activity back into their Facebook news feeds. It also gives brands and site owners the ability to better track demographic data of the users visiting their sites. With this feature, Facebook has made a huge move in driving forward the semantic Web -- something that Google failed to do with Buzz.

"Facebook has won the Internet," said Damon Cortesi, CTO and co-founder of Untitled Startup. "Facebook has always been social, but in terms of dominating the Web over Google they have made strides today."

Thus far, companies such as Yelp, Pandora, CNN.com and countless others have installed the "like" feature. Levi's has even built a dedicated Levi's Friends Store that includes "like" options for all of its items. When a person "likes" a Levi's item, or even "recommends" a CNN story, it not only shows up on the user's Facebook profile, but on the brand or news web page itself. Moreover, if a Facebook user has already "liked" the item, his or her friends will see that when they visit the external site.

Apparently it takes all of 10 minutes for a Web site owner to implement the Open Graph feature into its digital presence.

"The ease by which you can now integrate Facebook onto your site is a ridiculously simple proposition to any web site owner," Cortesi said. "For one, it doesn't take long, and two, you now have the world's largest social network talking about you. Why wouldn't you do this?"

Brands who implement the "like" feature and play into the Open Graph can add a Facebook token to their Web sites that claims ownership of a page, and then can leverage Facebook's "Insights," which is essentially a mini Google analytics. They can then get demographic data, such as gender and age breakdowns, as well as frequency of shared pages.

"This type of data for marketers is huge," Cortesi said.

While a step forward, users cannot forget the privacy implications of this type of feature. Privacy still remains the unknown black hole of the semantic web, and the ability for brands to make Facebook integration even easier will create an explosion of Facebook inclusion on web sites. This could lead many users even further down the path of allowing themselves to be potentially profiled.

Next: What about the privacy issues? -->

According to a CNN article, Zuckerberg reportedly said that the Open Graph does not show any information that wasn't previously already visible to friends. However, given Facebook's history of privacy issues, it's not what's being visibly shown to users that's necessarily the privacy the concern.

"My interest was piqued immediately from a privacy perspective," said Cortesi. "All of this information might've already been visible to friends, but now I can go to the Open Graph API and simply enter a user name in order to pull basic information about the user."

Cortesi, who spent 10 years as a security consultant before launching Untitled Startup, said that data such first name, last name, all of the person's likes both ON Facebook and OFF Facebook are visible through the Open Graph API.

"What a lot of people may or may not realize is that they are going to give up some of their personal information by using these features," he said. "This data can be scraped by almost anyone looking for more information."

Facebook recently presented additional privacy policy changes, most likely in preparation for these new features. Users should consider these privacy policies -- as well as how much information they really want to share -- before partaking in these new features, such as liking an external web page or even liking a Facebook Community page (previously Fan Pages).

Privacy debates aside, this is a clever move for Facebook, which has followed in Twitter's footsteps in terms of openness and using that openness for revenue goodness. As for Google, it's been fighting Facebook in the social category to no avail for some time. Will it wave the white flag or will it come back swinging against Facebook? If the latter, it had best pack one heck of a social punch.

Topics: Legal, Google, Security, Social Enterprise

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  • Facebook vs Google

    If ever I want to know anything about rocket science I'll be typing the
    words into google before I ask any of my 'friends' what they think it is.
    Guardian Angel 1969
    • Exactly....was there ever a war to begin with???

      When I think of Google I NEVER think of social
      interaction. I think about finding concrete info.
      I think about Facebook when I want to quickly
      share something with all of my friends. Facebook
      can very well be the center of the web and I
      pretty much figured thats where it was going
      anyway. What does that have to do with Google? I'm
      doing most of my FB interaction on a device
      powered by Google's OS. What does that tell you?
      • RE: Has Facebook won the web war against Google?

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  • RE: Has Facebook won the web war against Google?

    Not with me, it hasn't. Hell will freeze over and windows will go open source before I open a fb account.
    • sorry dude

      everyone is on fb...
      • Maybe most web users have an account, but...

        how reliable is the information Facebook is selling?

        I supplied only the absolute minimum information to open an
        account and as little as possible is accurate. The can try to track
        me all they like, all they will get is junk statistics. Anyone who
        pays for that is being misled.
        Fred Fredrickson
      • Sorry Dude

        Sorry Dude but no,everyone is not on fb
      • Sorry dude...

        I'm not on fb (and never will be) and neither are quite a few people I know. So, no, not everyone is on fb
        • Enough people for Google to take notice

          and try ther own aborted attempt at social networking. (Buzz)

          Remember, Google wants "everything about everything available to everyone".

          How much more social does that get?
          John Zern
          • I don't even...

            do this "Buzz" thing either. If I want to keep in contact with friends and relatives... well that's why I have a phone and email account.
      • not so much...

        No everyone is not on facebook just loosers and 10 year old kids or people over 40. Most people have lives and know better then to use facebook which is so full of security issues its riddiculous..
        • Wow

          Have you heard of college students? You should meet one. That is how it all started.
      • Not Everyone

        I am not on it and never will be. I think it's a
        BS site to begin with.
      • RE: Has Facebook won the web war against Google?

        @designmethis, RE: "Have you heard of college students? You should meet one. That is how it all started."
        smart college students started this, and i have a feeling smart college students will end this. i am in high school, but from my perspective, people are the least "sheeple"-like in college/university. so i would imagine that the exodus will start with them,
  • RE: Has Facebook won the web war against Google?

    Facebook may have won a huge battle against Google, but they have lost me. I've decided to leave Facebook, and focus all my on line presence on my blog, Twitter and LinkedIn.There's nothing on Facebook that I want.
    • RE: Has Facebook won the web war against Google?

      @znmeb i am totally doing the same thing. except my blog gets zero traffic lol.
  • FB Zuckerberg says Privacy is Not Normal?

    Facebook wins nothing if they keep making my private info public. I don't like how they play with the rules.
    • but the question is

      You say they won't win. But will you go as far as to give up Facebook ?
      • and the answer is

        i will. in fact i did already. try it, its easier than it seems. seriously, i used to be addicted to it and thought it would be impossible to stay in touch with people without it. now i talk to people using something called Talking To Them In Person, a communication protocol that has a much higher level of interaction than most text-based communication methods. i also use phone, email, twitter, and a blog, giving me all i really need for comm.
  • Facebook has no relevance, it will soon be yesterday's roadkill

    Zuckerberg is a moron that will soon aggravate the majority of Facebook's users to the point of open rebellion. As soon as the exodus begins Facebook's days will be numbered. The internet is littered with the corpses of yesterday's "really big thing" (see AOL, GeoCities, et al).