Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB) made a single tiny change to its platform on mobile in recent days. When sending a message the social network now allows users to add a link natively, and gives them the option to search through articles and other pieces of content shared on Facebook.
Google Inc (NASDAQ: GOOG), (NASDAQ: GOOGL) should be worried about the “Add a Link” feature, bot because of its direct implications for its search business, but because if the deft subtly with which it shows Facebook’s product team is cutting browser time, and keeping Google out of the picture.
Facebook makes mobile links great
Facebook is all about mobile, and the social network’s “Add a link” feature is a great way to keep its customers inside the “Walled Garden” that the company has built for itself and its users on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS devices and Google Android gadgets.
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Rather than forcing a user to exit the social network and use Google in order to find a link to share, Facebook will keep them out of a browser and on its own social network.
As Josh Constine and Kyle Russel over at Tech Crunch wrote on Sunday, the new feature may eliminate the “clumsy rigmarole of app switching and copy & pasting.” That could be killer for Google, as more and more content moves through Facebook on mobile without ever touching the Mountain View, California company’s services.
Google gets cut off on mobile
The battle on mobile between Facebook and Google will be determined in shades, not in dramatic changes. Facebook isn’t going to release its own mobile operating system and Google + is never going to attract users like Facebook. The addition of services that cause more or less phone time on ads from one platform or the other are going to determine the ultimate victor. Right now the momentum of marginalia is in Facebook’s favor.
According to Gene Munster, an analyst covering Facebook for Piper Jaffray, Facebook’s mobile revenue will “reach a level where it’s just not going to go any higher, that’s probably going to be about 80 percent.” In the company’s earnings numbers for the three months through March, Facebook showed 73% of its revenue came from mobile.
Google has tried and failed to get people off of Facebook and onto its own social networks, while the slow and steady moves at Facebook appear to have paid off almost every step of the way. The company’s Golden Circle of social apps, which include Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and Messenger, are taking up more and more of the mobile time of people across the globe.
Meanwhile Google is struggling to build its earnings on the platform. Mark Zuckerberg’s plans to keep users out of Google services are becoming increasingly important and Facebook’s “Add a link” feature may be a watershed moment.
Getting out of browsers
Google requires users to use web search in order to see its ads and have them more directly targeted at them and therefore more valuable. Each additional minute that Facebook manages to take away from that time hurts Google.
Mr. Zuckerberg’s dream, in the medium term, is to prevent users from operating on web browsers at all, leaving them pinned to their Facebook app instead. Facebook is getting its own publishing network together in order to ensure that it can make that happen.