Likely feeling left out of the real-time-search craze, Facebook said Tuesday evening that it had started testing an update to its search service that includes “up-to-the-minute results” from status updates, notes and links. The results are broken down into two groups: Those from the accounts of friends and those written by users who have made their profiles and content available to anyone. In the example the company provided, for instance, a search for the term “Iran” brings up a number of videos and status updates relevant to the current crisis. (See the screen shot to the left). By contrast, searching for “Iran” in the old version returns users whose names include the word “Iran.”
Facebook says that for now it’s only testing the new search service with “a fraction of a percent of the people on Facebook” and that the testing will “tell us if new features benefit people in the way we think they will.” It’s hard to imagine though that the company won’t soon expand the capability to all of its users. Twitter has shown the value in search results that provide a glimpse of what people are talking about at a given moment — and its success has led to a cottage industry of startups that are trying to improve upon Twitter’s own search service. Even Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is reportedly about to launch a new search offering that would provide real-time search results generated from various microblogging sites. (One limitation to Facebook’s service, however, is that many Facebook users keep their profiles private which could limit the breadth of the results).