Today, the Google-Facebook rivalry isn’t just going strong, it has evolved into a full-blown battle over the future of the Internet—its structure, design, and utility. For the last decade or so, the Web has been defined by Google’s algorithms—rigorous and efficient equations that parse practically every byte of online activity to build a dispassionate atlas of the online world. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg envisions a more personalized, humanized Web, where our network of friends, colleagues, peers, and family is our primary source of information, just as it is offline. In Zuckerberg’s vision, users will query this “social graph” to find a doctor, the best camera, or someone to hire—rather than tapping the cold mathematics of a Google search. It is a complete rethinking of how we navigate the online world, one that places Facebook right at the center. In other words, right where Google is now.
All this brave talk might seem easy to dismiss as the swagger of an arrogant upstart. After all, being Google is a little like being heavyweight champion of the world—everyone wants a shot at your title. But over the past year, Facebook has gone from glass-jawed flyweight to legitimate contender. It has become one of the most popular online destinations.
Read Fred Vogelstein “Great Wall of Facebook: The Social Network’s Plan to Dominate the Internet — and Keep Google Out” in Wired (June 22, 2009).