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Facebook, Google and the definition of ‘success’

Facebook announced this week its plan to go public with a $5 billion IPO. The news was both expected and eagerly awaited – by would-be investors as well as anyone wanting to peek under the hood at the company’s financials.

The prospectus Facebook filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows it ended 2011 with $3.9 billion in cash. To put that in perspective, Google ended the year with $45 billion, according to the Associated Press.

Though Google’s impressive bank balance easily overshadows Facebook’s, the search giant’s dog in the social media fight, Google+, is light years away from overtaking Facebook’s member base.

When Google reported earnings in mid-January, CEO Larry Page said Google+ had more than 90 million users, with 60 percent (54 million) being daily active users, or DAUs. Respected tech news website Ars Technica questioned those numbers and confirmed Google used a rather broad interpretation of what constituted an “active” user. (Ars’ report here.)

But even taking Google’s 90 million at face value, Facebook ended 2011 with nearly nine times the number of members (800 million) and DAUs (483 million). Google+ has plenty of time to catch up – but a long way to go.

The comparison raises an important question: When weighing Google’s bottom line against Facebook’s wild popularity, who’s won the battle and who’s winning the war?

Click here to read Facebook’s prospectus and here to read Google’s most recent earnings report.

Dansette

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