Facebook: The Next Search Engine?

November 12, 2010

Interesting question posed today on New Media Age: Could Facebook be the next search engine? With everyone and their Mom seemingly having an account on the popular social network, and the ability to log into third-party sites using one’s Facebook account being commonplace, it would seem that the site would be in prime position to step into any web-based venture and have a good chance for success.
This article comes on the heels of the recent announcement by Ask AKA Ask Jeeves that they would no longer be contestants in the search engine game. But rumblings about the possibility of Facebook entering the field go back at least several months if not longer. As documented in this article from June, search queries from Facebook’s internal search functionality already have the potential to return links from external sites, albeit using Bing as the search engine.
But what if Facebook does make the decision to build its own engine? A couple of factors would separate it from Google, Bing, and Yahoo! For one thing, Facebook is, at least in its current model, a members-only site. It is open to anyone, of course, but the user must take the initiative to create his or her own account before being able to participate in its social media society. The fact that members set up their own accounts and volunteer as much personal information as they feel comfortable with leads to the second factor: access to a user’s personal information, which other search engines do not necessarily have.
So theoretically, with that kind of information at their disposal, Facebook-conducted web searches could tailor the search results by as much demographic information as each individual provides to the site. The effect on SEO is obvious: how does one optimize for searches conducted with a nearly infinite number of possible variations? And what might be the advantages and disadvantages associated with attempting to market websites on the open internet to such specific demographic levels?
The questions are academic for now, as this is just speculation at this point. As of the time of this writing, Facebook has made no official announcements that they are entering the search engine market. And should they, there is no guarantee that user-entered information would factor into their search algorithm. But the potential seems too tantalizing to not give it some consideration.

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