Technically It's A 'Cold War' For Google & Facebook In Era Of Disruption

It's hard to say, looking twenty to thirty years into the future, just how different the digital landscape will look. Semantic Technology, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Web 3.0 are presently only toddling along in their infant stage. What they will look like in the next few decades is only guesswork on our part.

Who are the Digital Age's Super Powers?

However if we were pressed to gamble on the outcome, a smart man's wager might be that the last two digital super powers left standing will be Google and Facebook [with the possible exception of China].

A CNN Money report describes this evolution as analogous to the "Cold War," to conjure up imagery of what transpired between America and the Soviet Union, post World War II.

Similar to the chilly relationship between those two Super Powers, "Facebook and Google are locked in a high-stakes, multi-billion dollar battle to shape the future -- spending like crazy on emerging technologies [so that, when] their current businesses are disrupted -- and they will be -- they'll have a fallback plan." My recent blog post, "Taking Stock In Facebook May Virtually Have Nothing To Do With Facebook," points to Facebook's latest acquisition supporting that supposition.

Spending $2 billion for the virtual reality company Oculis Rift might seem incongruous with Facebook's current goals, at first blush - but after drilling down to the motive, it begins to make sense. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is wise enough to know that nothing lasts forever, and if he doesn't map out a "what-comes-next" strategy now, he may end up - down the road - like one of his previous flawed competitors - MySpace [even after a helping hand from pop artist, Justin Timberlake].

Acquisitions, Vertically Inclined. . .

Differing from the Cold War of the past, where Super Powers acquired territorial land-grabs as part of their expansion strategy, those in the Digital Age seek growth vis a vis software and hardware acquisitions [and oddly enough, purchasing complanies, no longer within their core business models].

Diversifying, by building strong vertical revenue-producers has been a sound business practice for quite some time. So, as soon as Google assumed this new modus operendi - Facebook was quick to follow. As Google invested billions into Google Glass and other wearable technology -- in addition to robots, driverless cars, smart homes [by Nest] --  it also carved out a viable path to the next iteration of the Web, namely Semantic Technology and Web 3.0.

In turn, Facebook decided rather than be left out in the 'cold,' there was more to be achieved by going one-on-one with its formidable opponent. So, it too has gone on a buying spree. And while not always successful (losing opportunities with SnapChat and Groupon), it did quickly gain ground with facial recognition software [DeepFace], photo sharing [Instagram], a chat app [WhatsApp for an unheard of $19 billion price tag] and the the aforementioned Oculis Rift to provide them with a foothold in the emerging virtual reality market.

However, these current 'Cold War' tactics might be viewed as mere swords-play, where Google and Facebook are sizing each other up for the grander skirmishes, yet to come.

Like two combatants engaged in a fencing match, the more adept player will be able to analyze all the weak and strong points of his opponent. And similar to the game of Chess, it will be able to contemplate two or three moves ahead. In a cold war, the difference between foes is not so much based on their skill and expertise alone, but on how well they read the other fighter within the context of current events and existing conditions.

So, with Google and Facebook focused so much on diversification, the question that needs to be asked at this juncture is: Will they be able to move beyond their core business model, namely advertising?

Graphic Novel's Prognostications

Pre-GooglePlus, back in 2010, I was leaning toward Facebook becoming the victor in this war for digital domination. In my graphic novel, "Facebucks & Dumb F*cks," I envisioned Z-Man [aka Mr. Zuckerberg] finding Google's weakness.

And I predicted that China's ability to exile Google [aka Gobble] back in 2010 was Facebook's opportunity to successfully overcome the Big G.

However replacing one opponent with another would still stymie Facebook's ability to assume world domination.

GooglePlus, the Game Changer?

Fast-forward to 2014, and today I'm thinking this power-struggle has tilted over to the search engine's favor. Since Google was finally able to launch its own successful social network, GooglePlus, with search interfaces, turbo-charged with its new algorithm "Hummingbird," - I think there's been a paradign shift.

With its seamless integration with search, Google can now retain more personal profile Intel for its own purposes providing it with a unique 'data competitive advantage." This in turn will enable the Big G to target consumers with advertising and promotions more accurately than any other advertiser on the Web - particularly Facebook (for more on this topic, see my previous post:  "Google's Hummingbird Algo Shifts Search From Keywords To Semantic Technology [Web 3.0]."

So in this turbulent era of disruption, who do you think will come out on top? Google? Facebook? or perhaps a third party like China?  As history has shown us, the Cold War of the past was not fought on a battlefield. Instead, it was a clash in the heart and minds of men. So whether it be won in the techie denizens of the Silicon Valley or behind the Great Firewall of the Orient - it's safe to say, it's still up for grabs!

So who do you feel has the staying power, enough capital and the foresight to stay ahead of the curve? And who will be more adept at adapting and blending in all the technical disruptions of the time, to help them remain in control for the future? Weigh in readers, and let us know your thoughts?

                                                    Cartoon as featured in HubSpot