Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg just told the world how her company plans to disrupt Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) .
"We think making the world more personal and social is having a profound impact on the way we relate to people, communities, and institutions around us," Sandberg wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. "In a more connected world, advertisers are social too ... We believe that more personalized social advertising complements the ways that people use Facebook every day -- to discover, share and connect with the people and the world around them."
Practically, this means Facebook is doing more to show ads based on what users and their friends search for, like, and post about.
Why aren't more analysts writing about this? Sandberg may as well be calling Google's search algorithms quaint, relics of a soon-to-be-bygone era of math-driven digital advertising where search engines give way to humans who recommend articles, songs, books, gear, services, friends, and more via Facebook.
Humans, she's saying, are the new Google.
And she has a point
Going by the numbers, the Facebook zeitgeist -- what we like, what we share, which groups we join and post to, etc. -- is extremely interesting to Madison Avenue. The company is on track to generate more than $1 billion in annual revenue and boasts nearly 500 million users worldwide. Private equity data suggest Facebook was valued at close to $11 billion at the beginning of the year.
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) CEO Steve Ballmer, who led Mr. Softy's $240 million investment in the social superstar, must be smiling.
But he isn't the only one who saw this coming. Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN ) Jeff Bezos and Netflix's (Nasdaq: NFLX ) Reed Hastings designed their services to take the best of what machines and humans have to offer. While each company uses "recommendation engines" fed by users' site browsing data, they also encourage subscribers to connect with friends.
Humans trust other humans more than they do machines. Call it the Terminator effect, with Google as Skynet, the fictional supercomputer that declares war on humanity in the Terminator films.
We've gone social in response, using digital tools to connect as humans. And Facebook, more than Twitter, LinkedIn, or, yes, Google has become our tool of choice. According to gigya, those who use a social service to sign in at a third-party site use their Facebook identity 46% of the time. Google was second at 17%, Twitter third at 14%.
Whether she meant to imply it or not, Sandberg's right: Facebook threatens Google because we're using it to organize our digital lives, and creating a massively relevant advertising platform in the process.
Get social Google, before Facebook and its social networking peers get you.
How should Google get more social? Buy Twitter? Build a new network to replace Orkut and Buzz? Let the debate begin in the comments box below.