Facebook wants to be your first stop online

Facebook PromptFacebook has reiterated time and time again that it is not Google’s rival. Facebook doth protest too much, we think, first as the social networking site introduced its e-mail-meets-messaging feature and now as it quietly encourages users to make the site their homepage.

VentureBeat was the first to report that over the weekend, Facebook began testing out its homepage prompts. A small amount of Facebook users logged into their accounts and were welcomed by a bar at the top of the page with a small icon, and a note reading “Drag this to your home button to see what’s happening with friends as soon as you open your browser.” The banner also included photos and names of specific friends you would be given immediate access to. As subtle as Facebook might think it’s being, this is a clear play for part of Google’s most prolific territory.

Facebook is using different prompts and messages to test user reactions, and find one that most effectively persuades people to change their homepage default.

In the last year, Facebook has seen its traffic climb over 55 percent and currently has over 550 million active users. At this current rate of growth, Facebook is on track to beat out Google for the title of most heavily trafficked site – and if it’s able to convince just a portion of its users it makes a fine default homepage, the battle could be over in a heartbeat. Perhaps this is a preliminary tool to gain footing as a homepage before it launches its own search engine.

Question is, with its unstoppable growth in members and traffic alike, why does Facebook want to increase its page views? The social network would undoubtedly claim this is all purely for its users’ benefit, but it really makes you wonder if Facebook just wants to win and win now.