Facebook's Plan to Take Over the Web

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Is Facebook trying to be the new Google?

Rumors have been swirling all week that Facebook is secretly working to build a smartphone and break into the mobile market. According to Bloomberg, three sources close to the matter claim that Facebook is actually working on not one, but two smartphones that will be introduced in the second half of next year.

“Facebook… is redoubling efforts to reach mobile users, many of whom access the site on smartphones. About a fourth of the company’s more than 500 million users log on to Facebook from wireless devices,” Bloomberg reports.

Facebook has repeatedly denied the rumors, but the company admits it is looking into making software that would be integrated into a smartphone’s operating system.

Regardless of whether the rumors of a Facebook smartphone turn out to be true, there is no doubt that the company is in the midst of an incredible expansion period.

Earlier this year, Facebook launched Open Graph, a tool that allows users to visit hundreds of sites across the Web and see what their friends have read and enjoyed. The goal is to connect all of these websites through Facebook and make the experience of those sites more social. In the process, Facebook has essentially set itself up as the window through which millions experience and use the Internet. This has led some to declare boldly, but accurately, that Facebook has seized control of the Internet.

But the company hasn’t stopped there.

Last month, Facebook announced the launch of Places, a feature that is similar to Foursquare and allows users to broadcast their physical location. As the Wall Street Journal noted, by allowing millions of users to check in to different locations, Facebook Places may “become a player in the growing Web business of supplying local information and advertising.”

Meanwhile, during the past year, Facebook has been building up its own virtual currency called Credits, which has become the default payment option for popular games from companies like Zynga. As with other online currencies, users pay for Credits with real money, either with a credit card or PayPal account, and then use this currency to purchase virtual items online.

And this month, Facebook reportedly partnered with Microsoft’s Bing, a search engine, to develop a search tool whose results take into account items you “like” on Facebook. In this way, they may be able to better personalize search results. This, combined with a possible smartphone, new advertising opportunities and a firm grip on how users engage with the Internet, will likely begin to chip away at Google’s dominance.

All the while, its signature social networking service has continued to expand, passing the incredible milestone of 500 million users, and it's still growing.

Of course, Facebook has encountered some blowback along the way, particularly from consumers and legislators concerned that the company is playing fast and loose with user privacy. Facebook has been criticized for making their privacy policy unnecessarily cryptic and even doling out confidential information on users to advertisers in order to make more money. To make matters worse, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, has hinted in public and in private that user privacy is not important to him or the company.

Yet, even that issue has been unable to stop Facebook's expansion, and today, it seems all but certain that Facebook is on the verge of taking over the web, whether we like it or not.

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