Social media is to Facebook what online search is to Google: just the tip of the iceberg. Understanding this makes it a lot easier to see how Facebook, despite it’s clunky mobile app, can actually end up dominating the mobile environment.
Google started as just a search engine and soon enough Sergey Brin and Larry Page realized the potential of adding advertising to the website. But what made Google’s advertising platform so big and profitable was the strategy to make Internet users never leave Google’s umbrella, far beyond search. It’s the combination of the search engine with Ad Words / Ad Sense, and Gmail, YouTube, Analytics, Drive, Blogger, Apps for Businesses, Maps, Chrome, and a lot more. Google has a wide catalog of products and services to cover the needs of every kind of Internet user, from those wanting to watch cat videos to developers trying to create the next big thing or business trying to earn millions. And Google makes money from all of them.
That’s exactly what Facebook is trying to do in mobile. They know how difficult it is to make more people see more ads on the Facebook app, so instead of bringing users to the Facebook app they are bringing Facebook to everywhere else in your phone, like Instagram and Whatsapp. But they are also bringing Facebook to app developers to make it easy to create the next big thing (with Parse or Facebook Login) and to businesses trying to ear millions (with App Ads and Payment Methods). Instead of getting the revenues of just running ads on the Facebook app, they are after the revenues of developing, promoting and monetizing any app. Add to all that (and all the data coming from there) Facebook’s own advertising platform, and you have a company with the same power and size than Google.
You can read a much deeper analysis of Facebook’s strategy and plans for the next decade in Fast Company’s article Facebook’s Plan To Own Your Phone.