Facebook vs Google

Today, many stories are broken first online. Indeed, many stories now never make it into print. This means PR professionals cannot afford to ignore developments in Web technology, even though the topic may leave some cold.

As you know, Google currently dominates Web search. The reason it does so is simple: Google’s technology is far superior to its rivals. But this isn’t stopping rivals such as Bing and Yahoo to continue developing their alternatives. And whoever wins the Web-search battle will affect how your client’s stories are seen and by how many people. Therefore, what’s happening in search, and more importantly, what’s likely to happen next, should be on every PRO’s mind.

Although Google is overwhelmingly the market leader, Microsoft’s “decision engine” Bing is hoping to give it a run for its money. And I reckon it’s in with more than a decent shout. Part of Bing’s future success is tied up with its strategic relationship with Facebook, in which Microsoft, Bing’s owner, took a $240m stake. One part of this relationship is the work they are doing together on search.

As you know, Facebook has built a fan club of 500m members. If Facebook was a country, it would already have the world’s third largest population. And it appears there’s plenty more to come, with Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, claiming 1 billion members is an achievable target. But what’s this to do with search? Well, did you notice that in a recent facelift, Facebook made its search box bigger and more prominent?

It did this because it’s possible to use Facebook to search the Web, as well as its own site. The pages it finds are branded as Bing search results. The reason why I think Facebook/Bing is going to give Google a run for its money is because how it is quietly and cleverly building its index of the Web through the introduction of its little ‘Like’ button.

It’s estimated that its ‘Like’ button – a device that invites users to endorse a Web page and recommend it to friends – is already being served on Web pages some 3 billion times every day! Each time the ‘Like’ button is deployed, it enables Facebook and Bing to visit these pages with its crawler – exactly as if it were Google. And then, just like Google, it adds these fresh pages to its own rapidly growing index.

But here’s the really clever part. Rather than writing complex algorithms to understand how and what people are searching for on the Web, the Facebook/Bing approach is much simpler. It is crowd-sourcing its index, finding out where its users are going and learning each time more about their habits.

This is a fundamentally much better way of knowing what people like and use, because it’s based on real people’s actions, and not a machine’s interpretation of them, which is how Google does it. On the other hand, Google's Buzz social media platform is struggling to gain users, which wasn’t helped by its PR disaster of a launch.

It is therefore no stretch of the imagination to suggest that Facebook/Bing, given the rate of growth of Facebook, is going to rival Google. And this will have a profound effect on the PR industry. You heard it here first.

Marc Pinter-Krainer is CEO and founder of news navigator www.onenewspage.com

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