Facebook's "War Declaration" Was Actually The Building Of A Boat

I thought it would be useful to post one more update regarding Facebook’s supposed “War Declaration” against Google with their Open Graph search functionality. In multiple instances Facebook has downplayed the appearance of search results, as they should. For Facebook to tell Google that they are planning to take on the search giant at their own game when the army hasn’t been assembled yet is not smart. To be fair, Facebook wasn’t the one declaring war, that was only our interpretation.

Facebook will steadily improve their search product over the coming weeks, months, and years until it is truly competing with Google. In the meantime, Google will attempt to get their Rich Snippets feature (recently discussed on ReadWriteWeb) functioning and hopefully provide a more full scale approach to combating Facebook’s unparalleled reputation measurement system: the social graph.

After posting the article last night it has become increasingly clear that Facebook was not a fan of our phrase “declares war”, which as I mentioned this morning, was really just an attempt to attract attention. Facebook doesn’t want attention brought to their search strategy though. Bret Taylor, Facebook’s CTO, posted the following on Hacker News this morning:

This is Bret Taylor, CTO of Facebook. I just wanted to clarify a couple of things because I think people are reading a bit too much into our actions.

First, Open Graph-enabled web pages have been appearing in search since the product launched in April. This is not new and not indicative of a change in strategy.

Likewise, only the pages your friends have liked appear in your personalized search results. While we plan on increasing the pages’ distribution through search in the future, right now, search is not the focus of the team working on product. We are focused on discovery and enabling users to build out their profile by liking things around the web.
So we aren’t really declaring war on anyone. But it does make a compelling headline 🙂

Nothing like some quality West coast passive-aggressiveness, right? Bret is accurate, it’s not literally a “declaration of war”, however it’s clearly a movement into Google’s territory, something which should be watched closely. Danny Sullivan, one of the leading search pundits, posted the following comment on our post:

In short, Facebook made me fight my way to its “Open Graph” results, where I got a less compelling experience than at Google AND the same results you got. My social network isn’t even influencing what I see. None of that is going to cause people to say “awesome, I’m going to do more searching at Facebook.”

I don’t mean to take away that search marketers (or anyone) should pay attention to Facebook and changes to its search results. But if this is declaring war on Google, Facebook’s starting out by sending a boat against a battlefleet.

If we were truly to take the war analogy further, the reality is that Facebook can do anything they want and right now Google has few ways of fighting back. The search results are simply one step in Facebook’s continuous evolution of search, so perhaps this was simply the building one boat as part of an entire battlefleet. More boats are coming though and a war will be fought (enough of the analogy!). As Facebook finalizes their “Great Wall“, the company is now pushing their new search strategy forward.

As I told Bret Taylor in the Hacker News comments, that search strategy was already announced at f8, however it was a technical explanation that flew over the heads of most people. All it takes is an image of search results in Facebook for the idea to click with the masses. No, Facebook’s Open Graph strategy is not new, but hopefully Facebook’s metaphorical declaration of war on Google got some attention and now more people can see just how powerful Facebook will soon become (as if 500 million users alone isn’t enough power).

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