Opinion: Is Facebook is Killing the Open Web?

 Is Facebook is Killing the Open Web?

Google and the other search engines have been the major driver of traffic to the open web for years. Social media is changing all that in two ways; social referrals – what we call ‘word of mouth’ in real life – and embedded content. Is Facebook is Killing the Open Web?

Facebook has more than 1.4 billion monthly users; 72% of adults who use the Internet visit the site at least once a month. 936 million of them, or 65% use Facebook daily. Only Google rates higher for visitors. 1.2 billion people use the Facebook mobile app monthly. Two thirds of them use the app daily. 581 million, or 30% of Facebook users login from a mobile device. Google gets higher visitor numbers, but the average Facebook user spends 42 minutes on the service everyday; the average Google user is in and out in a few minutes.

Facebook and Embedded Content

Google helps you find content on other sites, while advertisers try to get you to visit them over the rest. Seek, find, go. Facebook wants to monopolise the increasing amount of time people spend online using their service. Visit, discover, stay. In order to make Facebook ‘sticky,’ it is working with publishers to embed content directly into the news feed. Facebook wants to give users more content so they spend more time on Facebook and have less reason to visit other sites. For many of Facebook’s users, Facebook itself is the Internet. More time on Facebook means more ad revenue.

Facebook isn’t the only threat to the open web. Other social networks are copying the tactic in the hope that sticky content will keep users on-site. Publishers are following by going where the users are. Snapchat partners now include National Geographic, Vice, and the Daily Mail.

If the numbers are to be believed, each Facebook Discover story is viewed between 500,000 and a million times a day. Publishers are inserting ads in the feed and may be getting around 10 cents per impression, or up to $100,000 a day in revenue.

There are also publishers moving off the open web and posting exclusively on social media. Why send people to an external site when you can reach them precisely where they spend most of their time? These so-called Closing Silos not only post direct to social media feeds, they even sell ad spaces within their feed within social media.

It is a path of least resistance for publishers. Instead of fighting to attract readers to their own sites, go where the readers are. Which suits Facebook’s efforts to become the one-stop-shop for the web, already so much more successful than much as AOL and MSN in the 90’s. Facebook is built on the social graph exploiting user relationships and communities.

Social media could even resemble the TV landscape of big-brand TV channels aggregating content for consumers who opt for curated content over seeking it out themselves. In the entertainment sector, Netflix, Hulu ad Amazon are emulating TV channels in commissioning content creators to do just that.

Retailers big and small are already jumping to social media channels for advertising and promotion. Soon, retail itself may not need separate websites if social media in-plants and concessions are able to make the sales.

Social Referrals

If they can gain enough traction, then the communities of users themselves will accelerate the trend with social referrals – they tell their friends and communities on social media where to go for the best content… on social media. It’s easier to post a link within the ecosystem than risk going outside.


The open web will never completely die. But if the trend continues then the open web will be home only to super-niche special interests, rebels and non-conformists, an a handful of Super Social Media Brands will dominate the web.

Or is this doom-saying just paranoia? AJS

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