How Facebook Handles Questions Could Play Key Role in Future Search Habits

    August 4, 2010
    Chris Crum

Facebook’s new Questions product, launched in beta earlier this week, has a great deal of potential for answering the questions of half a billion people (the most recent number of Facebook users reported by the company).

Will you use Facebook Questions to seek answers? Let us know.

As competition between Facebook and Google over Internet user time and attention continues to increase, this may be yet another area where Facebook has a bit of leverage over the search giant. Q&A is becoming a big area of focus throughout the industry with many smaller players fighting for a piece of the pie (not that all of the players are small).

Google has Aardvark, which it has yet to really do anything incredibly significant with (at least related to Google search). Yahoo, of course, has Yahoo Answers. Ask just reinvented itself with a focus on community and web-driven Q&A. That’s just a few examples. Facebook has a major advantage, however, with that half a billion users, and the simple fact that many of those users spend a great deal of time using Facebook.

Facebook Questions data could be very useful to search engines and their users, if the product itself lives up to its own potential, but it remains to be seen if Facebook will be willing to share that information. The company is already notorious for being stingy with its data, from the open web perspective, despite its own "open" graph initiative.

Facebook told Search Engine Land that it doesn’t have plans to give search engines access to its questions and answers, though they didn’t rule out future consideration. The decision could be an important one strategically for the company in the future, particularly as Google continues to move toward trying to steal some of Facebook’s thunder (the key word there being "trying"…I should mention this notion has been downplayed by the company).

Microsoft has to be pretty interested as well, as it is frequently looking for new ways to compete with Google and it already provides Facebook with its own web search results.

Q&A is becoming an increasingly interesting segment of the search industry, and one where there is distinct possibility of shaking up Google’s share, thanks to an increasing number of players, the diversification of how people actually do their searching/information gathering, and blossoming mobile application ecosystems.

Facebook, Google, and increasingly Bing all have their places in these ecosystems, and Facebook Questions could conceivably play a powerful role in tipping x amount of searches in one direction or another.

Do you see Facebook Questions as a potential disruption to the search industry? Share your thoughts in the comments.