Facebook announced it isn’t going to show results from Bing any more as part of Facebook’s own search results. That’s led to speculation that Facebook might be trying to build a web search engine itself. I think that’s misguided for many reasons.
1. Facebook search for its own content is still poor
“1% done” is a well known mantra for Facebook staff, and it couldn’t apply more to searching for content on Facebook itself. It’s a poor experience that makes it hard to find old posts, check-ins and photos. Even though graph search has promise, it’s still not rolled out beyond the US.
This is valuable content. It’s also content that Google largely can’t index because it lies within Facebook’s walled garden. There’s huge potential to unlocking it.
2. Why take on Google at its own game?
Google is the dominant player in search in most geographies. God knows Microsoft has tried to unseat them with Bing. Why would Facebook do any better?
Matching Google’s algorithm isn’t enough (which you’ll know if you tried the Bing blind search test). Google’s brand is just as powerful in search, if not more so, than its technology. That’s why people Google stuff and they don’t Bing it.
My view is that Google’s dominance will only end when web search as we know it becomes superseded by another paradigm. That might be mobile apps, but who knows.
3. If Facebook was building web search, we’d already know
Step one of building a search engine is to crawl and index the web. If Facebook was doing that, thousands of webmasters would see it crawling their sites, and we’d know about it.
Facebook does have bots that verify external landing pages and open graph tags, they’re not crawlers.
4. It would make more sense to buy Bing
If Facebook really wanted to get into web search, it would make more sense just to make Microsoft an offer for Bing. I’d imagine Microsoft would insist Facebook took the whole advertising division, as Bing is the only bit that makes money.
But Bing isn’t for sale. As well as a direct consumer search proposition, it also a key part of Microsoft’s new software services strategy.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.
If it’s Facebook’s perception that search is a failing method for navigating the Web, then why would they bother investing in something with such a high barrier to successful entry.