Recently, there was a scholarship hosted on Collegefeed. It awarded one student based on his/her essay predicting the winner of social networks in 2023 (max 3 pages).
I really wanted to think about the answer from two contrasting point of views: Google and Facebook. Personally, I believe that one of these two companies will prevail as the winner of social networks in 2023. What’s very interesting is that both companies have contrasting strategies to win the social network war. From a high level, Google is all about the horizontal distribution of its products, and being wherever consumers are online. Their social network strategy is to tie all of these core products together through a social layer known as Plus. For Facebook, it’s really the vertical integration. It started out as a single social network application, and is now trying to integrate itself to third party products via its platform, especially on mobile. The goal is to leverage its massive consumer base, and make its product indispensable in consumers’ everyday lives.
Below is my take on the essay from Google’s point of view:
The explosion of social networks in the past decade has shown that internet has finally evolved to catch up with how humans have behaved for thousands of years; enabling bi-directional engagement with our social circles. As such, social networks have become an integral part of our digital lives. Today, social networks account for the most time people spend online, at roughly 22%.
Social networks have become a key tool that link an increasingly multi-platform Internet, creating social integration across every facet of the web. By 2023, all elements of the web will be social by default, and people will start to abandon its notion as social web becomes a commodity. Therefore, the winner of social networks in 2023 will move past building a single social network. Instead, the winner will come from a company that controls the largest ecosystem of next decade’s multi-platform Internet where every facet is integrated with social layer. With this in mind, Google and its implementation of Plus across its product lines will surmount Facebook and other social networks as the winner in 2023.
Today, consumers spend more time online across Google products than any other products. Take a look at Google’s popular products today, such as Search, YouTube, Chrome, and Android. Chances are, everyone online uses one or more of these products daily. In fact, no other company has embedded itself so deeply into consumers’ digital lives. In comparison to Facebook’s 1.15B monthly active user base, Google has over 1.5B monthly active user base. Consider the following statistics from Google’s four core products alone:
- YouTube has 1B monthly active users with 6B hours of videos watched every month
- Android has over 900M activation, with growth of over 100% year over year
- Chrome is only 5 years old, but leads the browser war with 53% market share and 750M monthly active users
- Google Search is used by 85% of the global internet population, and is the leading search engine with 70% market share
More importantly, Google holds two leading platforms today: Chrome and Android. Google has an ambitious goal of wanting everyone to use its products at all times, and its platforms Chrome and Android help ensure that actually happens. Consider the Chrome browser. It is the centerpiece of the Internet experience today. It runs everywhere – Chrome on Windows, iOS, OS X, and even on television. Google turns on as many devices and screens as possible and locks them into the company’s ecosystem. In fact, Chrome is such an integral part of Google’s ecosystem, it is becoming its own operating system. Next, consider Android. It is already the leading mobile operating system, and is outpacing iOS in growth. Google practically gives Android away for free, but as smart phones become a commodity product, Google will benefit from its web services behind Android devices that will be more profitable than the devices themselves. As result, Google controls the largest ecosystem of multi-platform Internet today. As Google cross-leverages all of its products and platforms with Plus, it is positioned to create the largest unified social ecosystem with immense barrier to entry from competitors. This is the point of Google Plus – it’s not another stand-alone social network.
Social networks will prevail wherever people spend time online. In 2023, new types of computing devices may prevail, such as wearable technologies. Therefore, the winner of social networks will be the one that is ready to adapt, and lead in this paradigm shift. Out of the leading social networks today, Google is the only company that is investing heavily into controlling and leading this shift. Consider projects such as Google Glass and Driver-less Car. Furthermore, Google’s open source Android OS is becoming the default OS for the ‘Internet of Things’, powering third party gadgets such as espresso makers, refrigerators, and video game consoles that are all being connected to the web. Not only is Google controlling the biggest multi-platform Internet today, it is investing heavily to create and owning the ecosystem of the future.
Next, all Internet companies face a common consumer behavior – people get bored over time. Shipping new and innovative products constantly is the only way to incentivize consumers to stay loyal. As social networks become a commodity service on the web, stand-alone social networks such as Facebook and Twitter will lose its competitive edge. In contrast to stand-alone social networks, Google has innovated its product lines constantly across every leading verticals: multi-media (YouTube, Google Play, Chromecast, Google TV), search (Google Search), local (Map), e-commerce (Shopping, Wallet & Offers), content and reading (News, Books, Blogger), email (Gmail), storage and collaboration (Drive, Docs, Hangout), ads (DoubleClick, AdExchange), analytics (Google Analytics), operating system (Chromium OS, Android), and mobile (Nexus). Plus can be integrated across each product to stay competitive and have a superior user experience over stand-alone social networks. This sets Google apart from its competitors and is best positioned to adapt to the changing consumer paradigms in the next decade to win the social network war.
By 2023, Google will prevail as the winner of social networks with Plus being fully integrated into its product lines. Deep integration with Android and Chrome platforms in the foreseeable future will put Plus the forefront of the multi-platform Internet revolution. Already, Plus is making an impact on the social network universe, becoming the second largest social network with over 350M monthly active users, surpassing Twitter. Turning all Google accounts to Plus is proving to be an effective user acquisition channel as Plus continues to grow rapidly – increasing user base up 33% from June 2012 to March 2013. The data is clear; Google Plus is a growing success and is here to stay. As Google rolls out their products in a unified user experience through Plus, it will continue to pick up speed and prevail as the lead social network in 2023.