Facebook Search: 5 Takeaways From Facebook's Assault On The Real-Time Web

-Facebook Search Icon-Yesterday Facebook search went live for a large percentage of Facebook users and pundits immediately began arguing over this being an attack on Google and an attack on Twitter, but what does this really mean? I’ve had a chance to Facebook’s new search for the past few months and have put the system to the test. Below are five immediate thoughts about what Facebook’s new search means for the future of the real-time web.

Facebook Search Is Finally Relevant

Facebook has been upgrading their search for sometime now but this new version is much more relevant than past iterations. When you search for something you can instantly see groups, people, friends’ updates, and public updates. Also, as I wrote last week, you can now see bing search results included in the search. In other words you can see all possible results whether it’s socially relevant or relevant through traditional search.

Facebook Search Has A Long Way To Go

While Facebook has dramatically improved their search product, there is still a long way to go. We are still far away from getting exactly what we’re looking for by just typing a phrase into a text box. Yes, search has been improved a substantial amount over the years but how does Facebook know what I’m actually looking for when I type something in the box? Right now the system makes an educated guess as to what I was looking for when I entered a search phrase.

So far the guesses have been relatively decent but information is sorted by date not by relevance. This is a big flaw of the real-time web as of now. While there have been some third-parties to make an attempt at developing relevant results (those results that are not strictly dependent on time), none of the big players have done anything ground breaking yet. For example if I want to find a news article on a topic why doesn’t Facebook serve up those articles that have been shared the most among my friends or within my given networks?

Twitter Has Far More Public Updates

Do a search on Facebook and Twitter for the keyword “Chocolate” and you are going to significantly more results on Twitter. While Twitter search also needs to improve relevance, the system at least has many more updates that are visible to users. Since I started writing this post a few minutes ago 401 updates have shown up about “chocolate” whereas on Facebook the most recent post is from August 6th!

Facebook Needs Authenticated RSS Feeds

Google, Twitter, and any other relevant search competitor (e.g. Bing, Yahoo, etc) all make search results digestable in other formats such as RSS. Facebook doesn’t want to do so though because they want to keep search within the site for as long as possible. One way to work around this is to create authenticated RSS feeds. If you haven’t seen an authenticated feed in action, check out John Gruber’s members only feeds.

Unfortunately authenticated feeds aren’t a perfect solution because they make the feed visible to whatever reader the user decides to digest the feed from. I think this serves as a great intermediary solution though: search becomes more user friendly and Facebook gets to have some form of protection of their data.

Facebook Will Smite Google

You heard it here first! Honestly I just wanted to use the word “smite” but Facebook is clearly gunning after Google and Twitter. At this point I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to suggest that Facebook is going to replace Google as the world’s most dominant search engine anytime soon. However Facebook could soon have more users visiting their site than Google, presenting the company with a great opportunity to take a huge portion of the search market.

As I said earlier though, Facebook has a long way to go in search. The bottom line is that we are extremely early in the real-time search wars and there is no doubt that Facebook wants to be the top contender.