Facebook Smackdown: Gmail and Internet news targeted

Posted by Aharon Etengoff

Marshall Kirkpatrick of Read Write Web has hypothesized that Facebook could eventually depose Google by becoming the world's "leading" news reader.

In a recent blog post, Kirkpatrick explained that "hundreds of millions of people" use the wildly popular social networking site to keep up with news about friends and family.

Facebook Smackdown: Gmail and Internet news targeted"It's an interface they know and love. The newsfeed model has been popularized by Facebook and so encouraging news subscription through it will be infinitely easier than trying to get people to use something new," wrote Kirkpatrick.

"Special messages can [also] be posted directly to readers. Facebook isn't a rigid 'publish and subscribe' only channel, it's a broader opportunity for communication than dedicated RSS readers offer. That makes more sense to users and is compelling to publishers."

Heather Hopkins, a senior online analyst at Hitwise, concurred with Kirkpatrick hypothesis, stating that Facebook could act as a "major disruptor" to the traditional News and Media category.  

Indeed, Hopkins noted that visits to Google's Reader have "dropped off" since November 2009. 


"Last week, Google Reader accounted for .01% of upstream visits to News and Media websites, about the same level as a year ago.

"[Meanwhile], Google News accounted for 1.39% of visits and Facebook 3.52%, while Facebook was the #4 source of visits to News and Media sites last week, after Google, Yahoo! and msn. News and Media is the #11 downstream industry after Facebook, receiving 3.69% of the social networking site's traffic."

However, Facebook is unlikely to halt its quest for online domination by limiting itself to news. The company is reportedly designing an indigenous webmail service known by the unlikely name of Project Titan that could potentially overtake Gmail and Hotmail in popularity.

"[Titan] would see users rid of the rather cumbersome Facebook messaging service that's currently available, and replaced by a fully-feaured webmail service instead," claimed a post on Stuff.TV.

"There have been hints at a move to expand the messaging in recent additions, such as the ability to add regular email addresses into Facebook messages, and the ability to search your inbox. Facebook [may also be] preparing to go much further and take on full POP/IMAP support, meaning you'll be able to access your account on your phone or through a service like Outlook Express or Entourage."