I wrote an article a couple months ago, asking: What if Facebook goes search while Google struggles to go social? I looked at some of the things Facebook has done related to search, and made the case that the social networking giant has a lot of potential for becoming a bigger player in search in general.
Now, they’re making more adjustments to Facebook’s internal search feature, which make it more useful. They’ve started separating the results that appear automatically into different sections. This includes things like: People, Pages, Apps, Groups, Shared Links, etc.
Google is in the process of rolling out a significant update to its social search feature, throwing social results into the mix (as opposed to separate at the bottom of the SERP). A glaring hole in Google’s offering, however, is a lack of Facebook data – arguably the most important social data there is, given that Facebook has so many more users than any other social network. It would be nice to see articles "liked" and shared by Facebook friends in Google’s results (luckily Wajam adds some Facebook data to your Google results if you install a browser extension).
Last fall, Facebook started adding "liked" articles to the search results. "Consistent with how we treat other Open Graph object types, we’ve introduced the ability to see articles shared by your friends in the search typeahead," said Facebook’s Namita Gupta. "For instance, if your friend clicks ‘Like’ on an article at a news site, the article will appear in your News Feed and can now also surface in the search typeahead."
Now, with "shared Links" they’re organized better, and often appear above other results.
Facebook has the strongest collection of person-to-person interactions on the entire web. You’d be hard pressed to find many authoritative sites that don’t have some kind of Facebook integration, even if it’s just "like" buttons. As long as Google doesn’t provides this information in search results, it’s never going to be as good as it could be.
This is one reason why Facebook is a potentially dangerous opponent of Google’s. To reiterate points made in my previous article, it’s not that far-fetched to see Facebook put more emphasis on search the way Twitter did, and Facebook already uses Bing for web results, and could easily fill in the gaps with those results. Bing has no qualms about supplying search results to other major search engines through the back-end (see Yahoo deal). What if Facebook just became a real search engine competitor – instantly personalized, with some sections powered by Bing. They’ve already pushed for users to make Facebook their home page.
Let’s also not forget that Facebook recently acquired search company Chai Labs (founded by a former Google exec), and has stolen many Google employees away. Also remember that Facebook has also been encouraging the addition of different types of information to be added to its internal network with things like Facebook Questions and Wikipedia-like community pages. In time, Facebook Places (combined with Bing Mpas) could evolve to power some powerful local results too.
And you never know what future acquisitions Facebook might make, which could play their own roles.
Should Google be nervous? Tell us what you think.