Facebook hopes to be an alternative way to organize the Web, a platform for consumers to spend their time online. Instead of using Google’s algorithm to search for news and information, Zuckerberg envisions a future in which people consult their network of friends. Most critically, content on Facebook is out of the reach of Google’s search engine. And the more time people spend on Facebook, the less time they are looking at ads on Google, which recently launched Google Plus as a rival social network.
Facebook is beginning to bump into Apple’s business of selling apps on its devices. Zuckerberg’s company has quickly become a powerful player in the booming market for social games, such as the popular FarmVille.
And the company is watching the mobile market just as much as Google and Apple are. Facebook is one of the most popular mobile apps on Google’s Android phones and Apple’s iPhone, showing that although these companies have become rivals, they can be dependent on one another.
Facebook is edging into Amazon’s territory by offering movies for rent using the company’s currency, Facebook credits.
Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, is benefiting from growing sales of its Kindle e-book reader and digital media, including books, movies and music, putting it in competition with Apple’s iTunes.
But more significant, Amazon — like Google — is shifting toward Apple’s territory of making devices. Not only does Amazon have the Kindle, but the Wall Street Journal reported in July that the company is planning to make a tablet to rival the iPad.
The four titans are among the biggest firms in the country. Apple, Amazon and Google have a combined market capitalization — or total stock value — of $616 billion, with Apple briefly surpassing Exxon Mobil this month as the world’s most valuable company. Facebook plans to go public soon.
The government has noticed two of these companies’ power. Google, which says it has plenty of competition in search, is under investigation by antitrust enforcers in the United States and in Europe. And U.S. antitrust officials have looked into Apple for its subscription service for the iPad and the iPhone.
“Compared to, say, an earlier era of Microsoft dominance, these companies are much more ready to tell you what you can and can’t install on the devices that you physically own,” said Ben Edelman, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who counts Microsoft as one of his consulting clients.
“They all come at it from a really different skill set,” said Morgan, whose company has sued Google for allegedly blocking Android phone makers from using Skyhook’s technology. “They all bring something to bear that’s not the whole puzzle, but enough of it.”
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