This shift to a more social web changes everything for businesses and consumers alike. Among the first industries to be rocked: advertising. Google may capture 41% of today's $31 billion U.S. online advertising market, including the lion's share of the search-ad market. But growth in search advertising is slowing, and advertisers are putting more of their limited dollars into Facebook, with its 800 million users, many of whom spend more time on Facebook than on any other site. (See chart at the bottom of the page) Facebook's display-ad revenue is expected to grow 81% this year, while Google's display-ad dollars will rise an estimated 34%. Google and Facebook would have you believe there is room for each to drive forward with unlimited success, but don't be fooled. As Stifel Nicolaus analyst Jordan Rohan explains, "It's highly unlikely that either Google or Facebook could grow by the billions that investors expect in the display market without engaging directly and stealing market share from the other."
Like Bill Gates a decade or so earlier, Page is seeing his company's grip on the tech world loosening. So he's fighting back with a mammoth effort to grab a piece of the social web. His first substantial act as Google's new CEO was to amp up the considerable financial and engineering mojo the company had aimed at Facebook's turf by releasing Google+. It's not Google's first social initiative, but it's the one that folks aren't laughing at, and Google says 40 million people have signed up in only four months. Across town Zuckerberg knows Google+ is the first credible threat Facebook has faced since it sailed past MySpace to become the world's No. 1 social network. (For Facebook there are more than bragging rights at stake: Anything that tarnishes its halo could impact its long-awaited initial public offering with a valuation that is expected to top $80 billion.) Not surprisingly, shortly after Google+ made its debut, Zuckerberg flipped on a pink neon sign at headquarters with the word lockdown, signaling that employees were on notice to work around the clock on, among other things, replicating some of the most praised Google+ features.
But defensive moves are not Zuckerberg's style, and in September, at the company's F8 developers event, he unleashed a sea of new features that alter the current service radically. And it's expected the company will launch an ad network eventually that will harness all those social actions to help advertisers target consumers better across the web. Smartly deployed, it could further threaten Google's position as the king of online advertising.
So while most of us spend our days casually toggling back and forth between our Gmail accounts and our Facebook newsfeeds, down in the heart of the San Francisco Peninsula it's war. Zuckerberg served free food this summer to willing workers on the weekends. Page is pushing his team to add features to Google+ at a furious pace: more than 100 in the first 90 days. The decisions that are being made right now -- product launches, advertising plays -- will determine which company prevails.
Larry Page was not pleased. It was a weekend day last spring, and Page, 38, was playing around with an early prototype of Google+ on his Android phone. He found it too cumbersome to post photos he had just taken. He called Vic Gundotra, Google's social czar, to complain. Gundotra tried to push back, explaining why the Google+ team decided on the approach it had taken. Page insisted that photos be uploaded with one click. At Google, what Page asks for, he gets. Gundotra ordered his team to rebuild the photo-uploading feature, and Page now gushes about the technology. "It is a totally magical experience," he said recently, as he described how easy it is to post photos from Android to Google+.