A screenshot that has been circulating of a Facebook page with a web-search box appears to be fake, but the giant social network is almost certain to add more search-related features that take advantage of the social information it has. And yes, Google should be afraid.


A screenshot of what appears to be a web-search box at the top of a Facebook page has been making the rounds, with AllFacebook suggesting it is part of a beta test of a new search feature. Facebook has denied this is the case, and the image appears to be a result of Photoshop or some external service adding a box to the page. Regardless of whether the page is a fake or not, the giant social network is almost certain to add more search features. It’s just a matter of time. And yes, Google should be afraid.

Facebook is already involved in search to a certain extent. The company did a deal with Microsoft last fall to add results from its network to the Bing search engine, and Blekko — the search engine startup launched by Rich Skrenta last year — also has a search that includes social results based on Facebook “likes” and other activity. But so far, Facebook’s involvement consists of allowing Bing and Blekko to crawl or index its data rather than doing so itself.

Google, meanwhile, made a big show of launching social and real-time search earlier this year, but the reality is that the majority of what those searches pull in (apart from Google-related social activity) is Twitter results. As Google knows, when it comes to real-time social information, Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla. The network’s users spend 700 billion minutes a month on the site, and post 30 billion pieces of content, including likes and status updates and comments. But none of that shows up anywhere in Google’s social search, and given the history of tension between the two companies, there is little chance that it will.

You could argue that not indexing Facebook is a good thing, since much of what happens on Facebook is irrelevant or ephemeral and, therefore, doesn’t belong in a search engine. But much of what occurs on Twitter falls into the same category, and yet Google clearly feels there is utility in searching that content.

The reality is that social signals — what people share, what they comment on, what they click the “like” button on — are becoming an increasingly important part of identifying intent, and that’s what Google has built its business on. But Facebook is positioned far better in terms of taking advantage of that aspect of the social web than Google is, and the network was recently awarded a patent that gives some indication of what it is thinking about in terms of combining search and social signals.

Google continues to try to bolt on social elements to its services, including allowing users to vote down search results they don’t like, or adding toolbars and enhanced profiles. But the billions of clicks and uploads and “likes” from Facebook are something Google will never have, and can’t possibly duplicate. It seems obvious the social network will take advantage of all that information in the form of social search, and that has to be something keeping Google awake at night — or should be.


Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Will Clayton

    1. Yes, thanks — I mentioned that in the post.

    2. Funny how people just read headlines. They mentioned it on the first paragraph.

      1. Yeah. Thanks for your valuable insight.

  1. Atle Iversen Friday, March 25, 2011

    My guesstimate is that in 5 years, Facebook has crushed Twitter, and in 10 years, it has crushed Google as well.

    Facebook friends are the “known knowns”, Twitter reaches the “known unknown”, and Google serves the vast “unknown unknowns”….

    1. TEN years? Do you realize what is going to happen in the next 10 years? Chances are, Facebook will not be on top in 10 years.

      1. Heh, Facebook might not even exist in ten years for that matter. Considering how much has changed in the last ten years it’s very possible that the virtual/technological landscape might be completely different from what we’re used to now.

    2. I don’t necessarily agree with you but your comment is very funny. Just one thing missing, who do you thinnk reach the “unknown knowns”?

      1. The next big thing ?

  2. What is this Facebook of which you speak?

  3. Mathew, great article. Search and intent is really the fault line here.

    1. Thanks, Semil — totally agree.

  4. Hi Matthew,

    Great post. I wonder what Google has to say about this. If this is true, then it would really make a big impact to Google search in terms of popularity.

  5. Whenever Facebook launch something, people make some reasonable arguments that it’s gonna be big. But so far their Q&A and comments haven’t taken off. People assume we will do everything on facebook if we can. But in reality, not all logical conclusions become reality.

    1. IT doesn’t have to be huge to really hurt Google. Google gets 99+% of its income via advertising, and most of that comes from google.com. Take even a relatively small amount of that away from Google and they will feel the hurt big time. And while you are right that not everyone wans to do everything in one place, many do. Enough to take perhaps a double digit chunk of the markte from Google, which would pretty much completely end ALL of Google’s money losing services (which is everything.)

      Anyone who thinks that Google is not concerned over this or thinks that they would come out on top if it does happen is a fool, or a fanboy, or both. The fact ofthe matter is, if Google and Bing both debuted today fo hte firs time, in one years time, Google would NOT have 85% or the market like they do now. Becuase that number has nothing to do with the quality of each serach engine. It is mostly about habit. But people also have the habit of doing everything on Facebook. It is not as if hte average person types http://www.google.com every time they want to search. They simply use the search box. Well, now if that search box points to Facebook, that is what they will use. And tens, if not hundreds of millions of people have Facebook open at all times whenever they are online.

  6. pickup games Friday, March 25, 2011

    Google is having some problem Microsoft use to have, lack of internal innovation and huge amount of backlashes. If you played with Android SDK you’d know that a lot of things are just not as perfected as Apple…

  7. I don’t think facebook will be able to beat Google in search. Because google’s search algorithm is very good and very much efficient, and not only that google’s other features are also good, like docks,labs,news,etc..
    But i think what google should do is, they need to upgrade there page raking or page showing system. It has really become a very common thing that google can’t provide the exact content containing websites(I have suffered from it). If google can’t keep their database clean of wasted websites,than facebook has a real chance of beating google.

    1. They don’t have to BEAT Google. Just take enough market share that Google’s value plummets. And it wouldn’t take much.

  8. Do you actually think that a company that copied geocities, AOL, friendster and myspace knows anything about “search” algorithms, relevancy and information retrieval sciences applied to billions of web documents can compete against a real technology company like Google?

    Remember CUIL? How about Bing?

    Try to understand what a real technology company is. Fakebook is the next myspace. In other words the Justin Beiber of tech co’s and by the way, myspace was the Jonas Brothers of tech co’s.

    Get real.

    1. Get real – Facebook is the biggest thing to happen to correspondence since email.

      In what other way can you aggregate everything your friends, family and favorite companies and bands do In real-time?

      You want to talk about flops? just look at Google’s Wave or Buzz. Why didn’t anyone use them? Go ahead and compare myspace to Facebook – but 500 million users can’t be wrong. You’ve heard of that right? They made a movie about it.

      1. It is 600 million by now.

      2. love how people love to use this 500+mil number.

        umm…how many people drive SUV’s? use disposable diapers? burn fossil fuels? followed Hitler? Stalin? Chairman Mao? loved Milli Vanilli (sorry had to throw that in there)

        numbers prove only that a great number have the same herd mentality.

        mooooooo. better pastures anywhere?

        btw i’m using google chrome. best browser out there with disconnect extension so tracking cookies from sites like facebook are blocked

    2. I remember Bing…that is that search engine that many surveys of people who have studied results have shown that Bing is BETTER than Google in many areas. That is that search engine that some Google head honchos have ADMITTED were better than them in some areas. That is hte search engine that Google has been copying lately.

      Just remember..no matter how ridiculous you sound in defending them, Sergey will never let you suck his penis. And again…if you think that ANYONE at Google is as cavalier over this threat as you are, then you are an even bigger fool than I expected. Andtrust me…I consider you a HUGE fool.

  9. Theycan not compete as a search engine. They have a ton of personal data, but nothing as far as i am concerned to deliver complex search queries. When is the last time you heard of someone submitting their site for a crawl to facebook.Plus they dont want to compete in that market, they are years behind, and that would make them an easy target to the many up and coming facebook rivals. They should stick to what they are good at. Letting me share information i find on google with numbnuts who want to click a like button and think its awesome. Facebook is nothing more than a tool to connect with people and share. Thats it, it is nothing more. Once the gig is over, there will be a new king. Everybody probably thought myspace was going to be a long lasting king. Nope. One day people are going to wake up out of their coma, and get back to being productive, instead of diddling with digital pigs.

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