The overlap between Facebook and Google isn’t immediately obvious—one is a social network, the other a search engine—but Facebook’s recent attempts to plant nasty news stories about Google demonstrates just how intense the rivalry between the two tech giants has become. Facebook was recently forced to admit it secretly hired PR firm Burson-Marsteller to urge journalists to investigate claims that Google had invaded people’s privacy with its new social networking tool, Social Circle, a potential Facebook competitor.
Despite their different business models, both companies rely on online advertising to pay the bills, with Google leading the charge with annual sales of about US$29 billion, compared to an estimated US$1 billion for Facebook. But Facebook is growing fast and, in many cases, is competing for the same bucket of ad dollars. Longer term, there’s speculation Facebook could replace Google as the Web’s gatekeeper, with users turning to their social networks when looking for online information. This may be the first time the fight between the duo has turned dirty, but likely not the last.