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Why Facebook is beating the hell out of Google

Updated on April 28, 2016

So, who’s winning? Is it Google or Facebook? Both are giants with no equals in their own right. Nevertheless, they are competitors and, the giants that they are, the tussle is always on. Both run social networks though Facebook seems way ahead in that sector. Search is Google’s monopoly and it looks unlikely that anyone else can topple the Mountain View based company in the near future.

True, they are winners and will be winners in their own sectors for the foreseeable future. But yet, there is a battle and both the dinosaurs are fighting to mark their territories. Social identities is a disputed territory between the two and Google and Facebook are fighting it out for the upper hand. But it’s no surprise who’s winning. Even when it comes to Social Login, Facebook is the clear winner as a recently released study of use of social identities for logins pointed out. According to the Customer Identity Preference Trends report data for Q1 in 2016, almost 64% of all social logins were with Facebook issued identities. Only 29% were with Google issued identities. The gap between the two is, quite clearly, enormous at nearly 35% but it raises several key questions about the whole social networking space and the use of social identities for other purposes.

We’ll analyze the relevant statistics to dissect what actually customers are thinking while using Social Login and why they seem to prefer Facebook over Google identities to login with.

What exactly is Social Login?

Let’s begin with a very basic primer for the benefit for readers who are still oblivious to the concept of Social Login. But rest assured, pretty much everyone using the internet on a regular basis for work and personal reasons would definitely have experiences Social Login without knowing that it’s called Social Login. It is basically a way to login to a website without registering afresh and creating a username and password but by using an existing social identity, like that provided by Facebook or Google. The button which reads ‘Sign in with Facebook’ or ‘Sign in with Google’ is an implementation of Social Login. The Customer Identity Preference Trends report for Q1 2016 also suggests that more than 70% website customers prefer Social Login over traditional email based registration and login.

How are Facebook and Google doing as social networks?

Before we dig into why Facebook is so far ahead of Google in terms of use of their accounts for Social Login, let’s check the basic data about the duo. According to official numbers, Facebook had about 1.59 billion monthly active users at the end of December 2015 which is a humongous number. Facebook also owns Instagram and Whatsapp. Users can login to Instagram using Facebook identities and majority of them are expected to be duplicates. In any cases, Social Login using Instagram identities is a rarity. Google, on the other hand, is also close. In its earnings call in February this year, Google announced that Gmail surpassed 1 billion monthly active users, probably by the end of 2015 too. But that’s the mail service. And stress on the fact that these are active accounts. On the flipside, Google’s social network Google+ is doing worse. A study found that less than 10 million actually actively use Google+ though the number of users is touted at about 250 million.

Is Google still competing with Facebook, then?

It is interesting to note that, unlike Facebook, Google never revealed the actual monthly active users on Google+ which leads to the speculation that doesn’t do so because the figures are too embarrassingly small. But either way, it would be an accurate assumption that Google+ is fledgling and is in no way close to competing with Facebook. Google’s ubiquitous email service is obviously doing well as billion plus active users number suggests but that is not translating. Google+ has almost equal number of total profiles but that is on account of Google using the same profile for all of its services like YouTube.

Is it no surprise Facebook is beating Google in Social Login?

Coming to the Social Login numbers again, about 64% customers use their Facebook identities to login to websites over just 29% using their Google accounts. The trend is not really obvious considering how universally used Gmail is and that Google accounts are Gmail accounts expanded for use in other services for a sense of seamlessness. The number 29% is a good one but not by that standards of Google. Yes, its Google+ is almost a failed entity but Social Login is not as much about the network as it is about the ease of login. This definitely makes the findings a little surprising at first sight.

Why exactly is Facebook so ahead of Google?

There is no accurate answer that can be found to this unless there is a large scale survey asking customers as to why they used Facebook over Google. Psychological reasons could also be involved. But one of the reasons why Facebook is preferred over Google is that it is an out and out social network while Google’s identity is mainly used for the email service. It is highly likely that more number of people are logged into Facebook at any given time than they are into Gmail or YouTube. This is because people use Gmail primarily and obviously to check their emails. But a lot of people remain signed into Facebook and regularly keep browsing through the continuously updated feed. While Social Login clears the registration hurdle, users are already logged into Facebook means that they won’t even have to enter the login credentials while signing into a website since an active session is recovered. So using Facebook for Social Login improves the ease even further. While statistics could not be recovered, it is expected that the total number of sessions worldwide for Facebook is higher than that for Gmail. This is also an important metric because psychologically, the last login resonates with the customer and it is likely that customers subconsciously chose Facebook because, more often than not, Facebook is the last website they would have logged into.

Will it be hard for Google to bear Facebook in the near future?

If the trends in the Customer Identity Preference Trends report are anything to go by, it is unlikely Google will surpass Facebook. This is despite gains that Google has made on Facebook in recent months as reflected in the Q4 2015 version of the CIPT report and the latest one. Google+ failing is a foregone conclusion but in terms of Google accounts usage for Social Login, the fight is still on though it is slightly one-sided for now.


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