Facebook Search Patent… Should Google Be Worried?

Deals Update Could Be Huge for Competition

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A patent that Facebook was awarded about a month ago, called “Visual tags for search results generated from social network information,” is suddenly getting some industry attention.

The official description of the patent says:

Search results, including sponsored links and algorithmic search results, are generated in response to a query, and are marked based on frequency of clicks on the search results by members of social network who are within a predetermined degree of separation from the member who submitted the query. The markers are visual tags and comprise either a text string or an image.

Greg Sterling at Search Engine Land calls it a patent on social search – an area, where Google is placing more focus these days (with good reason).

We’ve talked repeatedly about how important it is for the search engines to get social search right, and without Facebook data, it seems unlikely that Google will be able to do that – at least as long as Facebook continues to be the dominant form of social communication. Luckily, there are third party tools emerging to help bridge the gap.

We’ve also talked about how Facebook could become an important contender in the search market. This patent only adds more fuel to the fire in that department. Facebook has been doing other things to improve its search feature, and this isn’t the first search-related patent for the company either.

The bottom line is that with so much social interaction going on among true friends and family, the most trusted (by any given user) opinions are most likely to be obtained via Facebook than on any other site on the web. That information is incredibly valuable for many types of searches.

Meanwhile, Facebook is about to do something interesting with Deals:

Facebook Deals - More in Store - Watch Out Groupon, Fousquare
In case you can’t read that, it says, “Subscribe now to get notified when Deals are available in your area and receive regular updates about new offers.”

Right now, the only cities listed are Atlanta, Dallas, Austin, San Diego, and San Francisco, but “more cities coming soon.”

Things are going to continue to get more interesting for companies like Groupon and Foursquare, as we see more overlap between the Deals space and the location-based service space. While this particular offering from Facebook is more Groupon than Foursquare, Foursquare is increasingly becoming more of an interesting place for businesses to turn to for customer offers.

On a side note, having just got back from Austin, I’ll say that Foursquare’s presence was felt tenfold over Facebook’s throughout SXSW Interactive. CEO Dennis Crowley (pictured below, playing an actual game of Foursquare at a company party at SXSW) said that Google would make an interesting partner.  He also said that he is not opposed to potential Facebook Places integration, though he doesn’t hear demand for it very often.

Deals and location are both areas that Facebook and Google may find themselves competing with each other more and more. Foursquare could end up being a key component to that, as a leader in the LBS space.

Do you think Facebook poses a threat to Google? Tell us what you think.

Facebook Search Patent… Should Google Be Worried?
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  • Compuslive Thinker


    Good Article and just yesterday a buddy and I were talking….

    Imagine if Apple / Mac used “facebook search” as there default search…

    and THEN to sweeten the deal, “facebook” comes out with “ads by facebook” that publishers can put on there site 😉

    OH PS: Mark the calendars: The day google released “panda” will go down in history as the day that Google basically well destroyed its own model…….

    When Google sided with Ehow, it took the “wind out of a lot of sails”

    BUT all of us are now waiting for BING or Facenook ads for publishers…….


    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I still expect an “ads by Facebook” product eventually. Purely speculation, but it makes too much sense if you ask me.

    • Dan01

      I would love to see facebook ads we can place on our site.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/social-marketing-company.htm Nick Stamoulis

    It’s really amazing to take a step back and see how Facebook has evolved in the last few years. It’s not just a place to connect with friends; it’s the hub of our online social activity. It seems that as soon as there is a new social aspect available, Facebook is quick to unveil their version of it. With hundreds of millions of users logging on every day, Facebook could pose a serious threat to Google, especially since Google isn’t incorporating Facebook information into their social search.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I think Google is going to continue to have difficult obstacles to overcome without Facebook data, for the foreseeable future.

  • The Age of Google is Over

    i have used Google since its introduction back in the late 90’s. It was always the most relevant search engine, but this latest algorithm change has changed that drastically. I’ve used Google for search purposes since its introduction and considered it hands down to be the best and in the last couple of years I have become a web publisher, so now I have experienced it from both sides.

    One of the things I have found disheartening with the algorithm change is that on my site I have quality hand written articles written on home improvement topics, a field in which I have 35 years of experience working in. One of my articles that used to rank well and had many user comments thanking me for helping people fix a problem themselves has dropped in rank and the top result is now a content farm that lists my article as a reference. The content farm article does not even relate in any way to my linked article and the reference is completely irrelevant but the rank is gone and the top result is garbage. This has happened across the board on many of my articles with about a 40% drop in traffic and ad revenue.

    In my experience as a search engine user I found that a number of sites manage to do well in searches but aren’t what you are looking for. As you become used to seeing these low quality websites you start to notice the URL in the search result and skipping over them whenever they appear. Mark my words it wont be long before users of Google Search are fed up with this and move on. They have clearly shifted to quantity over quality and relevance.

    One thing I have noticed is whenever there is a vacuum on the internet someone will fill it. Google has just shot themselves in the foot and created a vacuum where they occupied the top spot as the most relevant search engine. FaceBook is a logical entity to come along and fill the void and also bring in its advertising platform which is really what Google is.

    Bring It On FaceBook! Change We Can Believe In! We are witnessing the decline of an internet empire by their own doing.

    • Beamer

      Thank GOD!!!! Google’s demise is coming ’round the mountain and about time! It may take some time but it IS coming.

      • Ryan Kempf

        I think Google does a really good job why does Facebook feel the need to own everything unless they are thinking of being like Google I think its a bad move to say the least

    • http://www.tennisfitnesslove.com/store Tennis Fitness Love

      I’ve used google also since the early beginnings and I’ve always supported their new products. But lately, just like you, I am fed up by the low quality sites ranking high up in the searches, while many good quality information sites will never make it that high. That’s too bad. I guess that’s the progress of technology and more crowded internet, but something has to be done…

      Great article, Chris.

  • http://www.1stclassite.com Jonecir

    Good article Cris, so Google has not patented its search results?

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Bill Slawski has a great list of Google patents. Many of them are search-related: http://www.seobythesea.com/?p=1138

  • http://www.kokoscoffee.com annagusto

    For me Facebook is treat to everybody’s site!!! because facebook is famous right now!!! as we remember we ahd friendster before… When the facebook came out in the market all of the Philippines much liker the facebook than friendster which is so famous before…

  • http://www.healthinsurancesource.net Mike Oliphant

    So how does one go about advertising on Facebook? I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Google and am really ready to go elsewhere. In fact I have shut down the ads and shifted to MSN pay per clicks. Could you please tell me where to go on facebook to get started? I know this sounds funny but I don’t “facebook” or even have an account. I am older crowd.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Here’s facebook.com/advertising/” rel=”nofollow”>Facebook’s advertising page.

  • http://www.ukgreetingcards.co.uk michael

    I really like this article its mine field out there. Google is so powerful it seems they can do what they like. I think social networking site is not just for tweeting or connecting with friends. I use Squidoo and it has really helped me gain more traffic. So I think we all have to change the way do our SEO and marketing.

    • http://sethczerepak.com/ Seth Czerepak

      Social capital is the currency which drives the internet. Facebook leverages this perfectly, Google doesn’t. I don’t think Google has a lot of hope if Facebook decides to play in their sandbox.

  • http://www.socialmediatoseo.com Steven

    This question has been posed before and I think there are some merits to a social search engine. However, getting the average user to even begin to think in terms of facebook as a search engine will take years, if ever. The truth is facebook is and always will be a social application, maybe a little more maybe a little less in time.

  • http://www.freemoneymakingvideos.com Free $100 A Day Video Course

    You better watch it, Google or you could die a tragic death like MySpace. Don’t let Facebook beat you.

    • joe

      never going to happen.

      • http://www.freemoneymakingvideos.com Free $100 A Day Video Course

        You never know, Joe. Anything is possible in this fast growing and constantly changing world of technology. All I am trying to say is that Google should not get cocky and underestimate Facebook because that will be a big mistake.

        • itsnice

          Google has ALREADY gotten cocky.
          That’s why so many people are fed up with Google.

          But FaceBook is not that much less arrogant; they just happen to be the newer kid on the block.

          But I do hope that FB and Bing take Google down a few notches. I’d like more choice in where to put my ads. Having only one place (Google) is a big mistake, in my opinion; it gives Google too much control.

  • Susan

    Facebook needs a search patent because their search is awful. While I feel like Facebook is a dominant player in social search, I don’t think they will be taking over search, in itself. I started using Facebook when it first came out and I got my friends and family all involved before Facebook was as large as it has been the past couple years. My use of Facebook plus the usage amount by my husband who is in tech, and many of our fellow friends are using Facebook even less than before. I never click on the ads – or even see them. I’m very ad aware – their ads are more “spammy” looking than Google’s. On Facebook, typically I search and fan for FUN things, like tv shows and a local ballet gym I go to…for episode updates or even discounts/coupons. I don’t use Facebook for other searches, like “how to replace a baseboard”, or “how to potty train my kid”. This is what Google is for. I’m exhausted with hearing people compare apples to oranges. Google and Facebook operate differently. Until Facebook does something outside their focus. As for the comment about Myspace and Google…I think Facebook would have more of a problem of being like Myspace if more legit users stop using Facebook or suffer from social overkill and more malicious apps start hacking into more accounts (which I’m seeing happen more often). Currently, I’ve been using Facebook more as an online contacts book.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Facebook already has itself integrated with so many more facets of society than MySpace ever did. They also have a pretty close relationship with Bing.

  • http://fullspike.com/ Jay Coleman

    Social Media could easily ruin search. It may become a popularity contest to see who can accrue the most friends to click your links. Sort of like Digg used to be. A core group of “publishers” who pass around their links to make an article popular. If Social Search influences SERPS too much then all we are left with is a massive digg.com. I’m not a fan.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      You should have some level of control over your own social circle. Surfacing relevant content from people who are you real friends is something that isn’t going to be easily gamed.

  • http://www.theverymoment.dk Sofie

    It’s a great benefit to people that Google gets some competition. Facebook is growing and getting stronger by the hour, and users are on facebook a lot longer than anywhere else, so why not have search related to your social experience. It makes sense. Google just has to focus on their core product.

  • http://michaelzonline.com MichaelZ

    I am reading this article and remembering IBM refusing to believe that anyone would want a personal computer. And how far they got lost behind.

    Google has some control over the internet searchscape, for sure, (thta might be an understatement) but there is no reason to believe that someone else cannot make a viable alternative. And succeed at doing that.

    I don not believe that it would take much for FB to lure many advertisers, publishers and searchers to make FB their first port of call. And if they can get a patent for slef moderated tags that works to deliver results thta make sense to the searcher, that is going to be huge.

    • http://www.killerwebs.info/ Bradford Web Design

      Nice reply !!

  • indi

    Google is in big trouble. Nobody likes Google anymore. Facebook is about to enter search. That’d be Google’s end. Can’t wait.

    • http://www.killerwebs.info/ Bradford Web Design

      here here!!!, I can’t agree more!!

    • http://www.saganwebdesign.com Sergey Sagan

      I’m a somebody and I love Google… you guys are all kidding yourself to think that Google is in trouble… seriously? Didn’t you see latests stats? 97% of all Mobile Search Revenue is Google’s and that is growing exponentially! Google has all the blackfiber… just wait till they start offer mind blowing fast Internet at prices that people will just just the gun to switch to… They know what they are doing… They have a few setbacks (failure to buy Groupon) but their search results still remain very relevant (despite the excessive amount of eHow garbage). This has turned into a “I hate Microsoft so I will be a minority and switch to a crappy OS, that’ll show em” type deal… So stop your crying and adjust your marketing to the now. First it was link exchanges, then it was article marketing, now it is social media… either stay current or become irrelevant…

  • http://www.killerwebs.info/ Bradford Web Design

    Excellent article, can’t wait for the giant to fall myself!! Facebook rules and will for a long time to come!!

  • http://www.weshare.com.au Kane Sherwell

    will facebook over take google?

  • Steve

    Google has become what it always said it would not become. I’d been a long-time AdSense publisher. I wasn’t making huge money, but enough to make it a fun little hobby. Suddenly, a few months ago I get the dreaded letter: because I was “abusing my account” it would be terminated. Not just my AdSense account but my Google Affiliate Account and everything identified with my identity as a human being. I sent a letter of appeal, but in Google’s eyes you’re guilty until proven innocent. Monopolies can do that.

    Google approach reminds me of napalm firebombing in Southeast Asia in the 1970s. When there was a threat, just burn everything down. If you injure some of the innocent in the process, no big deal, there’ll be others to take their place. Whatever happened to “don’t be evil”?

    I would love, and I mean love, to see Facebook come up with a “Facebook Publisher Network” where they can use the data they have to qualify publisher sites and have some kind of tiered CPC where more highly and broadly “Liked” publishers have higher CPCs. Heck, most sites have the hook to Facebook in place already just to get that “Like” button up.

    That would do a lot better than Google with its cadre of fresh Ivy League graduates playing god. Yahoo failed because it tried to deal with the same fraud that Google is trying to deal with, and as for Microsoft, I’m a little sick of the “we’re not accepting new publishers, but check back real soon” message that’s been on their site for two years!

    • Dan01

      I would love to see Facebook come up with a publisher network. So far, Google has the glut of advertisers and spills them over into Adsense. I guess Bing doesn’t have that yet. Yahoo ended their network. AOL has a good program going on – paying by the pageview.

  • Dan01

    As a publisher, we have tried to figure out ways to drive traffic to our website from Facebook, Twitter etc. We don’t pay Facebook (or anyone else) for advertising.

    The degrees of separation is interesting, but I don’t see how this is going to hurt Google. Facebook is about keeping up with friends and relatives. Google is about finding pertinent information on a subject.

    Here is a question: How many people use the Facebook search rather than the Google search – and why?

  • http://delawareinternetmarketing.net Kyle Delaware

    Facebook is definitely making a strong play but it’s a bit early to see this as a definitive turning point. Google is still the dominant player in search and has already made some important moves in video and mobile marketing. That being said, this is certainly fun to watch.

  • http://www.loyaltics.com Dhana

    Not only the search patent, but the complete Facebook ecosystem is what Google need to worry !.

  • Alex K

    Behavioral patterns change but humanity remains. We are a social creature (facebook) and we are an inquisitive creature (google). We are socially inquisitive (facebook search) and in this fast moving and exciting world – we are afraid of missing something (the world wide web). We the people (the co-operative) love innovation but are uneasy with the growing powers of the corporations who bring it to us (all of the above) and resent their ever shifting slant towards the powers that be (governments, media houses, industry). They are all answerable to the people who police the whole thing with a single click. If the tools of our web cheat the user, they become useless. New tools will be born and they in turn will eventually sell out to the corporations whose investment enables them to bring their tools to the masses. This is the technology company life-cycle. Is Microsoft getting cool again (bing)? And when will wolphramalpha.com go pop?
    All that said – this is a little like talking about the latest horse and cart before the onset of the motorcar. With augmented reality, robotics and kinetic energy, humanity will come and go whilst behavioral patterns remain.

  • http://konccepts.com/blog/ Som

    Good News that Facebook got patent of search . Several Industries are using Social Media to boost up their business . because it helps them to reach directly to their audiences . But it doesn’t seem that it will take a huge impact on Google. Because Google has been able to hold its position dominantly since long time. So ,there is no chance for Google to get worried.

    But it will be helpful for Search Engime Marketers . They will have more choice .What if Facebook starts ‘FaceSense’ like Google AdSense ?

  • steve

    everyone has their favourite either facebook or google. trouble is they all wield to much power and control. I used to enjoy facebook but got sick of all the junk adds and spams. now google searches are becoming irrelevant. why cant someone just destroy the complete internet system then we may actually start talking to each other again

  • http://www.nansonwebdesign.com Web Design

    I think Google have been doing search too long to let someone just come along and snatch it from under their noses. Do you really think your going to see facebook maps soon? I think Google will definitely be staying one step ahead of the game always.

    “The one who finds the treasure first always keeps the Gold!!!”

  • http://www.cerosolutions.co.uk Web Marketing Lincolnshire

    Nobody here has metioned about the link between Facebook and Bing.

    With Bing now planning to use facebook data I have no idea how this will change things. With Facebooks own socail search being created, alongside of Bings link based search results. Googles got some serious competition coming.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I mentioned the Bing relationship, which extends to both Bing and to Facebook’s web results.

  • http://www.myshem.com ken chan

    well facebook ought to be a search engine as it dominates loyalty from a broad base of users.

    Facebook vs Google maybe or Facebook + Google.

  • http://www.ivdisplays.com Vinay Menon

    How of all these will actually translate to a rich user experience for the surfer. Both the leaders will try to get more advertisers on their platform and thats the bottomlne and they are both doing good.

  • itsnice

    Facebook won’t replace Google anytime soon. Google is too dominant, and unlike their predecessors (Yahoo, AltaVista, Excite, etc.) they have a business model (Adsense, Adwords, “Ads by Google”) that rakes in lots of money. Interestingly, Google did not invent that model, it was invented by Overture, which was bought by Yahoo. Google pays Overture (or paid Overture) a license to use Overture’s patent on money. 97% of Google’s revenue comes from that licensing.

    Google has gone to great lengths to make or buy and modify great, cutting edge products that keep people returning to use them (e.g. Search, Maps, Books, Android, etc.) to keep that revenue stream.

    What puzzles me is why Overture and Yahoo did not take the same approach.

    Despite all this, I am all for more competition in the search space.

    Having one giant and a bunch of dwarfs just stifles innovation and leads to abuse of power. Just ask any Adsense/Adwords publisher who has had their account summarily closed by Google.

    I hope Bing, Blekko, Twitter, FaceBook give Google a the competition it needs, just like Google gave Yahoo and AltaVista competition.

    More choices are always better.

  • http://www.clearsense.se FB Sökmotoroptimering

    Interesting, how would seo work for facebook search?
    Probably by using really good copywriters, perhaps a renewal of journalism and creative writing.

    :) Promising!

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Creating content that people actually want to share?

  • http://www.niravpatel-seo.co.cc Nirav Patel SEO

    Dear Chris,

    Really a nice post… and I enjoyed a lot during reading and clear abt many things…

    Facebook is very popular but I think it’s not as Google…

    As Google is very famous probably in all country and Facebook is for couple of Country …

    What you think for the same ?


  • http://odgusenje.blog.com Jig Gmijovic

    Complimeti per il Vostro sito! Siete bravissimi!

  • http://xenonoutlet.com/ learning about mp4 conversions

    I am fascinated and also thinking about what you are covering below.

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