Has Facebook Got Google and Bing Worried?

Wed, Jul 7, 2010

Google, Yahoo! & MSN

As search engines go, Google has a fairly comfortable position at the top of the tree. Even Microsoft’s attempts to suggest that there is an alternative, don’t seem to be doing much to change that. So could it be that Google’s biggest challenge might come from a less likely source, like Facebook? With over 400 million active users, many experts have felt that Facebook always had some search potential, but there didn’t seem to be an obvious way to turn this into a reality. So what’s changed, and should Google and Bing be worried?

One of the biggest and most recent changes to Facebook could be a signal that they are ready to throw their hat into the ring and offer their users a search function that might become a real alternative to the usual search engines. I say “could be” because there haven’t been any big announcement that this is the plan, but it certainly seems to be becoming more and more likely.

These days, if you carry out a search on Facebook, as well as the usual Facebook pages you might expect to see, there could also be a number of links to external sites. While these are listed as pages, if you click on them, you are taken out of Facebook and into the third party’s website.

This has all come about because of the recent launch of Facebook’s Open Graph API, as well as 1 billion “Like” buttons across the whole internet – linking millions of pages to Facebook and its users. Websites that adopt the Open Graph API, and place the Like buttons on their pages, give their viewers the chance to link these pages to their Facebook profiles.

Once a site is “liked” by someone on Facebook, there is an good chance that it will show up in their, and their friends’, searches. Facebook seem keen to play down this search capability, saying that their Open Graph API and the Like buttons simply allow other pages on the net to effectively become Facebook pages, but what it could lead to has got some people quite excited.

As more and more website optimize their pages for inclusion in Facebook’s search results, the amount of third party links that will start to show up should increase, but could this really pose a threat to the other search engines. Well, the answer seems to be yes, and no.

Where Google is pushing ahead with real-time search and the Caffeine search index, to provide users with the very latest content, Facebook’s search results lag quite a bit behind. But there does seem to be more of a focus on providing search results based on a user’s location, and the sites that they and their friends have “liked”. Could this be the start of a more personalized search engine?

While Facebook might not have Google worried just yet, you can bet they’ll be keeping an eye on how things develop. And if they do develop the way many expect, it could be Facebook’s exclusive search partner bing, that actually has more to worry about.

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This post was written by:

Jonatas Leonel - who has written 19 posts on SEO Blog | SEO Marketing World.