As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a firm believer that Facebook is going to enter the search market within the next year. This was all but confirmed this morning when Zuckerberg accidentally(?) leaked a (blurry) image of the (potentially) new Facebook wall. See that huge search bar across the top of the screen? Yeah, me too.
I really think that Facebook has a solid chance of taking a good share of search market, and it’s not just because they have 800+ Million users who spend an average of 8 hours per month using Facebook (that’s four times as long as people spend on Google).
Facebook has something really unique to add to the search market. They have information about what people are reading and what people are sharing. This is extremely valuable information. Facebook can rely on real human interaction with information rather than mathematical formulas based on data usage.
For years, Google has based their search algorithm around links. The assumption is that quality content will have a lot of other content linking to it. The more links a website has, the higher up it goes in the search result. And the more links to websites with the links, the more weight those links carry. This is the (simplified) formula that allowed Google to grow to the behemoth it is today.
But this system is easily gamed. Anyone with a few bucks can get an article spinner and mass link submitter, and, with a little bit of research and work, get a website to the front of Google. While we can argue the ethics of such practices all day long, the fact remains that Google can be gamed and people will come up with new ways to trick Google every time the search algorithm is tweaked. This is because Google is based on math and people will always be able to come up with complimentary math to arrive at their desired results.
Basing a search algorithm around what content is being shared completely avoids these pitfalls. Getting people to share an article is infinitely more difficult than accumulating backlinks for a website or article. While SEO blackhatters may try to create a large number of Facebook accounts to share a single page, this would be a much more time consuming task and extremely easy to catch and stop.
If you’re worried about Facebook search results being tainted by the uninformed masses, you may be thinking a bit too small. Real quality control can emerge from any sort of content sharing, in the same way that I mindless ant can create an intricate nest when part of a colony. When done correctly, social search will show only fully vetted information and not simply a timeline of lolcats or misinformation.
Social search is a different philosophy of search, that can enrich the search ecosystem with a new way of exploring information. It can bring real competition to Google by doing things differently, and serving unique and relevant information that rivals Google’s results. No other search engine has been able to find this balance thus far. In providing a viable alternative to Google, it will force Google to improve their algorithm in brand new ways. The world of search will improve.
I’m not advocating switching completely to Facebook’s search once it’s live. In fact, I think that would be incredibly detrimental. Value will come from using multiple search platforms, reading and exploring information, and extracting value. As long as Google doesn’t eat it’s tail with trying to mimic Facebook (*cough* Search Plus Your World *cough*) the Internet will be a better place with Facebook search.
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