Blog Post

Is Facebook's Social Search Engine a Google Killer?

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

When Facebook launched its Open Graph protocol in April, blanketing the web with “like” and “recommend” buttons, it seemed obvious that one of the company’s goals was to use the resulting behavioral data to power a social search engine — one based on likes instead of links. That process is now well under way, as a report at AllFacebook notes. The company has confirmed that all web pages that use the network’s open graph plugins show up in the social network’s search results in the same way that traditional Facebook pages do, as described by CEO Mark Zuckerberg in his keynote at the F8 conference.

Facebook hasn’t said exactly how many websites have implemented the Open Graph API and plugins since the new platform launched (a week after the launch it said there were 50,000), but the protocol was an extension of the company’s existing Facebook Connect service, which enabled publishers to integrate features from the site into their pages, including allowing users to log in with their Facebook credentials. According to the company, more than a million websites — including some highly trafficked sites such as The Huffington Post — have integrated its features, and 150 million of the network’s more than 400 million users “engage with Facebook” in some way through external sites every month. So will Facebook’s social search engine be a Google killer?

The network’s move to harness the power of its Open Graph protocol is clearly a shot across Google’s (s goog) bow, but it’s not clear whether the power of the “like” is equivalent to or greater than the power of the link. As Liz noted in a GigaOM Pro report (subscription required), knowing what our friends or Facebook users in general have recommended is useful in some cases — when looking for a hotel or restaurant, for example — but might be less useful in other cases. There’s no question, however, that the Open Graph data Facebook is collecting could become a real alternative to a simple Google search for some users. Being able to search for recommendations from close to half a billion users could be very powerful.

Meanwhile, the search giant hasn’t made much progress in incorporating social elements into its own search engine, apart from integrating Twitter results — although since Facebook’s Open Graph protocol is theoretically an open standard, there is the potential for Google to use that to pull in the network’s results in the same way it uses Twitter’s API (social search engine OneRiot recently added Facebook “like” data to its search in this way). Microsoft’s (s msft) Bing will likely have a leg up in that department, however, because it runs the Facebook search engine, under the terms of a deal signed in 2008. Facebook search grew by 48 percent in March compared to the previous month, according to comScore rankings. That gave the network a relatively puny 2.7 percent share of the U.S. search business, but still put it ahead of AOL (s aol).

In the video below, Facebook’s chief technology officer Bret Taylor tells Liz Gannes about what he wants to focus on for the future — a list that includes search:

Related content from GigaOM Pro: Why Google Should Fear the Social Web

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Ruurmo

This article also appeared on

25 Responses to “Is Facebook's Social Search Engine a Google Killer?”

  1. zucker

    who r we kiddin, googles got it cuz of net neutrality and net anonymity, can u imagine that search engine without those two things? wot kind of links would we find at btjunkie or filestube or google if we’d all kept our names this past decade? facebook is like a dinosaur from the 90s, this search engine talk has gotta be a huge joke, but downhill is da next 60 years when the digital immigrants will literally die, just u wait

  2. Let us welcome Facebook in to search arena. Competition will always improve user experience with all existing search engines. In my opinion facebook may not be able to out rank google in search engine market in near future.

  3. Geraldine Stapelton

    I don’t think Google is going to be killed by anyone. Facebook and post “like” messages all across the internet, everyone will continue to search.

  4. Simply put: No.

    Who are we all kidding that something won’t overtake Facebook in two-year’s time. FB may be able to harness ‘web-portal’ effect, catching searches from users with FB as their browser start page, but IMHO they’ve got a slim shot at even reaching <5% of all FB users with this functionality.

    Anyone with a FB (Twitter, Ning, Pownce, Digg, and Plurk too) account older than a year has likely stopped visiting the site nearly as much as they did during their first few months.

    One good dose of disconnection anxiety is enough to cause any person to begin ignoring the digital obligations proposed by social media. (Similar to the outrageous concept of someone being angry at you not answering your cell phone, a digitally-manufactured obligation.)

    Sure, it’ll make finding that YouTube video your buddy showed you yesterday much easier to find — but I don’t think it’s going to help anyone who actually uses their computer for work.

  5. rohitsift

    i dont think it needs to be a googlekiller to grow/thrive for a couple of years.

    the key thing to watch is whether a fabric knit of our social-graphs will be significantly better (at search or information retrieval) vs. judging via links. fb is the only other entity online that has the kind of data google works – and data makes smart people much much smarter about what to do with it. google’s deep datavaults begat ad-dollars – perhaps fb’s graphsorted data will deliver an even deeper disruption of the 1/2Trillion dollar ad industry.

  6. Maybe Google will team up with Twitter to offer something similar ? I heard facebook is worried about twitter which is tomorrows faecbook which is today’s google which is todays microsoft of yesterday(one trick pony)

  7. FB “like” is a step in the right direction – it is a signal about the visited page. In ranking, it is also very useful to know where the surfer came from i.e. the referrer. It will be interesting to see if FB tries to capture that too in the future.

    This is not to say that “like” is not powerful, one can get all kinds of interesting rankings, including formal ones, with that data alone.

  8. The power of the Like button resides in a crowdsourced search engine where humans and not bots recommend pages.
    This potentially leads to a “cleaner” web as people click on more interesting content and not the obviously keyword stuffed pages.
    Also it should filter out a lot of embarrassing content like porn for instance, leading to a search engine more family friendly.
    After all, who will “like” a porn material, generating a wall post on your Facebook profile that is broadcasted to all your friends?

    But this is hardly news, just a confirmation by Facebook of the obvious (Mathew, check that May 1st posting: