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How Facebook Will Rival Google for Search


Thats a bold statement! Google has remained relatively untouched as the leader of search for over a decade. But if any organization is going to prove a threat, Facebook could be the one. If you wanted to search for something online the social giant probably wouldnt be your first choice on which to pose a query. Despite the goldmine of data it currently sits on, Facebook is not seen as an outlet for answering questions for online shoppers, researchers and other users.

If CEO Mark Zuckerberg has anything to say about it that view that will drastically change in the coming years. As he describes it, search for Facebook is a multi-year voyage that the company is fully committed to. Fitting within his 10 year plan, Zuckerberg has a big vision for search on Facebook; A vision which could pose a legitimate threat to the undisputed leader of search, Google.

Anyone can make a search on Facebook today using the graph search facility, but as it stands this is not a replacement for any of the top search engines. When launched in 2013 it received average reviews and hasnt made huge strides since. Any multi-national company thats going to pose any threat to Googles flagship search is going to need a powerhouse of capital, data & something uniquely valuable to bring to the table. Facebook has all of these.

Speaking to Wall Street analysts as part of his Q4 2013 earnings report Zuckerberg spoke about the potential for Facebook search to return information unavailable on any other search engine, Facebook could answer questions like: What are my friends favorite restaurants. If Facebook cant answer your question theyll return a list of results from the rest of the web instead, just like Google or Bing does. So for the 1.2 billion that visit the site each month, is there really a need to go anywhere else?

The biggest challenge faced by any search engine

The challenge Facebook faces is the effort needed to make it work is far greater than any search engine has ever come across.

Making sense of all of the content on the social network could take years, but Facebook is fully committed. Zuckerberg has already assigned a taskforce within the companys AI unit to start working on the new search engine. The taskforces experts on search say they will have no fewer than one trillion pieces of content to make sense of.

These are some pretty big tasks in AI that are things that we have teams that are working on that will need to be researched over time, and will have obvious implications for the products that we do, but over time the real value will be if we can understand the meaning of all the content that people are sharing, that we can just provide much more relevant experiences for people across everything that we do. Mark Zuckerberg

Exactly what problems Facebook plans to solve with their search facility are not yet known. What is known however are the distinct advantages to be gained for businesses.

Facebook holds an unprecedented amount of consumer information, far greater than Google or any other search engine currently holds. Want to target consumers based on their profession? No problem. Want to target users based on their interests? Just a few clicks, whatever demographic you want to reach, Facebook can probably make it happen, allowing for some serious laser targeted marketing.

If the social giant is going to make an impact in the search industry the exponential level of demographic information it holds will be the definitive driving force for the company.

Clearly Google has its own grand plans for search, but speaking in his financial call two years ago Zuckerberg seemed to suggest that Facebooks search could become bigger than any other search engine: Theres huge potential There are a lot of questions that only Facebook can answer that other services arent going to be able to answer for you.

It is likely that Facebooks recent acquisition of ecommerce search engine The Find will play a big part in making it happen. With the payment capabilities Facebook already holds and its partnership with payment platform Stripe last year they should have a good shot at rivalling Google, at least in terms of a search engine for online shopping and commerce. In this universe, Facebooks biggest competitor in the not distant future may not even be Google. It may very well be Amazon.


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