Facebook making forays into search

By June 25, 2010 4 Comments

Over on All Facebook they have been writing a lot this week about Facebook’s moves into search.  Their thesis is that the ‘like’ is replacing the ‘link’ as a measure of authority and that Facebook has all the data to deliver the best search service.  A couple of days ago they wrote about how SEO might work on Facebook and then today they trumped that with Facebook unleashes open graph search engine, declares war on Google.

Together these two posts explain how Facebook will begin surfacing objects from their Open Graph index in Facebook search results and these objects could be pages from your site, or any other.  Take a look at the screen shot below to see how this might work.

imageAccording to All Facebook, Facebook will use the number of times a page is liked to determine relevancy and hence positioning in the search results.  As they point out this will lead to ‘like baiting’ which is equivalent to the ‘link baiting’ publishers practice to get good positioning on Google.

Right now much of this is speculation.  All Facebook say they managed to replicate the result shown in this screenshot (which I assume was issued by Facebook) but when I tried it the Trip Advisor result didn’t show up.  I also tried a bunch of other searches and didn’t get anything very interesting back.

That said, for certain types of searches Facebook could be very powerful.  The Ajax on Facebook’s search is greasy quick and if you are on Facebook already and want to quickly know something more about a hotel using their search function could easily become a quicker then going over to Google.  It will only work for a subset of queries though, and the size of that subset will depend on how good their algorithm is.

The other interesting thing here is whether and how Facebook will directly monetise their search feature.  If they do they will have to choose between promoting partners’ sites and adopting a more transparent system like Adwords.  This decision parallels the one being taken at Apple right now about ads running within their platform.  A couple of weeks ago I posted about how the web landscape is changing and we are heading towards a world where success for startups is getting much more dependent on having the right partnerships rather than having great product and web promotion skills – I don’t necessarily think that this is a good development, and the way Facebook and Apple approach the next period in their development will determine how quickly we move in that direction.

You might by now be wondering whether Facebook search is yet making a dent in Google from a market share perspective.  The answer is yes, but only a small one – according to Comscore data from April (reported here on GigaOM) their share is around 2.7%.  That said, my understanding is that their query volume is growing very fast.

We could all use some competition for Google, maybe this will be it.

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