Google's internet monopoly is certainly something to be envied. In the words of Ben Elowitz at TechCrunch, Google "had the most impressive dataset the world had ever seen; the most sophisticated algorithm to make sense of it; an audience of a billion users expressing their interest; and more than a million advertisers bidding furiously to reach those consumers at just the right moment." But is its crucial search feature vulnerable to Facebook?
According to Elowitz, yes. Google is vulnerable precisely because its dataset is, as he puts it, "dead." Its search algorithm analyzes the pages and links that users have left behind, but it has almost no first-hand knowledge of any of the users who created this content. The users are all anonymous. Facebook, on the other hand, "has created a platform that knows more than 600 million people, complete with identity, interests, and activities online." Writes Elowitz:
If Google’s business has been built on choosing which Web pages, out of all those in the universe, are most likely to appeal to any given (but anonymous) query string, think about this: Facebook already knows, for the most part, which pages appeal to whom—specifically and directly.
And, even more powerfully, Facebook knows each of our individual and collective behavior patterns well enough to predict what we’ll like even without us expressing our intent.
In Elowitz's estimation, this key difference could give Facebook a tremendous advantage in search "when it eventually decides to move in that direction."