As Facebook gears up to announce a bunch of new video and messaging products at its developers conference this week, a common question has come up among industry insiders:
Facebook seems to be leaving Google in the dust in certain areas where the search giant should have dominated. Beyond giving Facebook bragging rights, the company’s aggressive development of some of these new technologies has the potential to shake up the business landscape.
Take Facebook’s recent, dramatic push into video live-streaming.
Sure, YouTube has broadcasting capabilities. Individuals can do it through its gaming app and the company has live-streamed huge events, like the President’s State of the Union address and several debates. But Facebook has opened up its streaming capabilities to the public, put discovery front-and-center, and already proved the virality of its approach as nearly a million people simultaneously tuned in to watch a watermelon explode.
One Facebook partner that Business Insider spoke to put it this way:
Part of the appeal of Facebook’s Live product is that broadcasters can pull in people who were already just hanging out on Facebook anyway. Google may get the same amount of people or more to watch one of their live YouTube streams, but in the majority of cases, those people will be seeking out that video, not discovering it because they were already hanging out on YouTube.
And succeeding at Live video — the closest equivalent to broadcast TV — comes with huge advertising potential.
Right now, advertisers like YouTube because it has higher-quality content and brands can attach themselves to professional creators who have a following, explains Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research. Facebook on the other hand doesn’t have the same kind of high-quality video for advertisers to latch onto.
“This could change if Facebook more aggressively licenses or otherwise helps to develop professional video content that runs on its platform,” Wieser notes.
And new tools to encourage high-quality streaming content on Facebook is one of the things that the company is expected to talk about at its conference this week.
Rise of the bots
The other area you’d expect Google to have succeeded already is messaging, but Facebook’s chat app, Messenger, looks miles beyond anything the search giant offers.
Google has Hangouts, a chat app that contains elements of live video — you can do video calls between groups of users — as well as messaging (it’s primarily a conversational tool).
But Facebook is widely expected to release new tools for businesses to incorporate automated artificial intelligence-driven messaging — through “chatbots” — likely with new integrations with its own smart virtual assistant, M.
Facebook’s vision of the future is that users can get a wide variety of information and services from chat, like buying a shirt, ordering an Uber, making a dinner reservation, buying tickets to a show, checking their flight status, and more. Meanwhile, this “conversational” search would keep people on Messenger and off of Google search.
The search threat
Imagine users being able to message a Tide detergent bot about the best way to get a coffee stain out of a white Tshirt, and receiving a video response right in the chat app. Goodbye, advertisement-laden Google query.
Entrepreneur Alex Iskold prophetically described this future early last year in a blog post titled, “I’ve seen the new face of search and it ain’t Google.”
“Once this new world order is in place, you will quickly forget how Google worked. Phrase based search and 10 links will become the things of the past. You will quickly get used to, and will love, the human way to search. Via a text message,” Iskold wrote.
Or, in this case, a Messenger chat.
If users can get all the information they need through asking bots in Messenger, they will be less likely to want to open up a different search product. Of course, Google does have an intelligent assistant already in Google Now, but the more advanced version, Google Now on Tap, is only available on its latest Android operating system (which is only available on a minuscule number of Android phones).
The Wall Street reported last December that Google plans to release a smarter, bot-focused, platform agnostic, messenger app, but we’ve yet to see any real sign of that product.
“Google has made many entries in social and YouTube is still its greatest social asset,” Jan Rezab, founder of social media analytics company SocialBakers, tells Business Insider, “But it has not succeeded to see the trend in social messaging, live video, and hasn’t made substantial acquisitions in the space – which in the long run is very bad for Google.”
Google holds its own developers conference next month and we’re sure to get a whole host of new announcements from the search giant too. But even if it does make major announcements in live video or smart chat, it will end up looking like second fiddle to Facebook.