Facebook is adding to its search feature, encouraging users to search for popular topics and news items right on the site.
In order to accomplish this, it has indexed more than 2 trillion posts, which will be accessible through the search box.
This expansion seems targeted to compete with traditional search engines, perhaps taking a percentage of searches away from Google and other competitors.
In a post on October 22nd, Tom Stocky, Facebook’s VP of Search, wrote, “When something happens in the world, people often turn to Facebook to see how their friends and family are reacting.
Today, we’re updating Facebook Search so that in addition to friends and family, you can find out what the world is saying about topics that matter to you.”
When you search for a topic, you’ll see posts from your Facebook friends and public posts related to that topic.
Public posts might come from businesses, organizations, and publications, or they might come from individual users who have set their posts to public.
Facebook will organize search results to highlight the most relevant, recent posts on your search topic. Facebook also reports that the results will be personalized, probably to show you results targeted to your location and perhaps your interests.
Facebook also reports that users will be able to see “public conversations” about a particular link: “With one tap, you can find public posts about a link, see popular quotes and phrases mentioned in these posts, and check out an aggregate overview of sentiment.”
This feature doesn’t seem to be up and running just yet, and Facebook is viewing it as a “first step” towards summarizing popular thoughts about a topic or article.
The big question is: do Facebook’s new search features constitute a threat to Google?
Facebook seems to intend them to work that way. While the search still highlights posts from your friends, the new focus seems to be on the public posts that will now be included. Facebook wants people to use its search to find the latest information and most popular articles about recent topics. This definitely overlaps with Google’s dominant area.
Meghan Woolley, Social Image Content Manager, commented, “I don’t think they’ll be able to take on Google. Facebook’s strength is in connecting people to other people, while Google’s strength is in connecting people to information.” People may use Facebook search when they want to see posts from their friends or get a snapshot of public opinion, but Google is entrenched as most people’s go-to search when they need information.
Allan Loumann Lissau, Director of Social Image, agrees.
He explained, “The question is: can Facebook move a percentage of searches (and the accompanying ads) to Facebook within the next, let’s say, two years? I think they can. But will it seriously hurt Google? I don’t think so. Google will fight back.
Google is for search, and Facebook is for connection and inspiration. The new Facebook search tools might help users to get a better sense of what’s going on in their network, news and opinion, but they’re unlikely to challenge Google in the world of informational searches on a short term."
Written by content manager Meghan Woolley
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