On a conference call Monday evening with investors and media to discuss the company's fourth-quarter earnings and financial outlook, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg let slip a revealing tidbit: Facebook and Google aren't on speaking terms.
Responding to a seemingly benign question about the opportunities afforded to Facebook by Apple's new mobile operating system, Zuckerberg launched into a brief appraisal of the state of play in the mobile OS field. There are three main platforms, he said: Google's Android, Apple's iOS, and the mobile Web. He praised Android for the relative openness of its system, which, for instance, allows people to send text messages via the Facebook app. Then his tone turned a little peevish.
"Android is a very dynamic and open platform—as long as Google keeps it that way," he said. Then he added, "Our relationship isn't one where the companies really talk."
Apple, in contrast, has "a more locked-down system," he noted, but "they've been a great partner for us so far."
That there's chilliness between Facebook and Google is no surprise: The companies have long been arch-rivals in the online advertising business, and Facebook may have recently surpassed Google in the fast-growing mobile display advertising market. And Facebook's new search function represents a major assault on Google's core business. Still, Zuckerberg's admission is an indication of just how frosty the rivalry has become.
No wonder Facebook's new search function delivers Web results via Bing.