Ark, a new people search service, launched at TechCrunch Disrupt. It claims to let users search over a billion people bsaed on over 30 filters (such as location, high school, college, employment, interests, etc.). It indexes over a billion profiles across networks including: Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, MySpace, Orkut, and others.
This video shows what it does:
While the product launch is interesting itself (it has even raised a $4.2 million seed round of funding), TechCrunch's Josh Constine reports that Facebook expressed interest in a possible acquisition of the company at one point. There has been plenty of speculation that Facebook could get into the search game, and compete more directly with the likes of Google (not to mention the speculation around a potential AdSense-like ad network), and this will surely only fuel such speculation.
Constine writes, "Facebook was so impressed with how Ark repurposed its data that the social network loosely discussed the possibility of buying the startup or at least acq-hiring its founders. There was no offer extended, but Riley [co-founder, Patrick] tells me, 'We didn’t even take it that far. We weren’t interested. We wanted to build something bigger.'"
Let's not forget that Facebook was recently reported to have been working on an improved search engine. This may come as an internal search engine, but with over 900 million users, why would it have to be external to compete with Google? Let's not forget that many Google users are using the search engine while signed in too.
Ark itself, in addition to just letting you search for people, is planning on letting you search your own social data, similar to services like Wajam or Greplin, according to Constine. The service is currently open to sign ups until TechCrunch Disrupt ends on Wednesday.
On a side note, it's interesting that Ark has a Penguin for a logo, considering the connotation this bird carries in the search industry.