Google is forging ahead in the social side of the web with Google+ and Google+ Your World or social search. Facebook, on the other hand, is headed in the reverse direction. With 336 million search queries in February, according to ComScore, Facebook is far behind Google in search. In fact it is trailing all of the “big five” search engines; Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask, and AOL.
Rumors surrounding the future of Facebook search promise a bright future. Reportedly, a former Google engineer (Lars Rasmussen) is leading a team of two dozen Facebook engineers dedicated to creating an improved Facebook search engine. Perhaps you noticed one small change on Facebook recently. The search box which once simply said, “Search,” now beckons, “Search for People, Places, and Things.
Facebook currently allows users to filter searches by people, pages, places, groups, apps, events, music, web results, posts by friends, public posts, and posts in groups. Facebook’s natural social strengths may give it an advantage over Google+ and social search.
It’s expected that we’ll be seeing better sifting of Facebook content soon. From status updates and articles to videos and other “liked” content from around the web, Facebook will soon deliver more relevant search results. Perhaps this means that searching for someone like me with a last name as common as Fletcher will soon be easier. You might be able to query “Fletcher” or “marketing experts” and be presented with results of people and pages nearby. Maybe pages with the most likes will be weighted heavier.
Instead of crawling and ranking the whole web, as Google does, Facebook already knows what its users find interesting and likable. Improving search may make it easier to find the best articles, recipes, and promotions. (On the downside, users see and rate mostly new material and obscure content may get left behind.)
What could this mean for ads? The search advertising market is a $15-$19 billion industry. Quality search results mean Facebook may be better poised to sell relevant keyword ads alongside search results. Will Microsoft’s Bing prove to be a threat? The engine has been personalizing search results based on your friends likes since 2010 and are currently third in quantity of search queries.
Who will come out ahead in the race for search? Only time will tell. What do you think about Google’s social search or Facebook search? Please give your two cents in the comments below.