Ronnie05's Blog

Is Google’s “Search” feature vulnerable to Facebook’s “Social”?

Posted in Internet and Search, Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on June 16, 2011

Over more than a decade Google had the most impressive dataset the world had ever seen; the most sophisticated algorithm to make sense of it; an audience of a billion users expressing their interest; and more than a million advertisers bidding furiously to reach those consumers at just the right moment.But is its crucial search feature vulnerable to Facebook?

Google is vulnerable precisely because its dataset is, as it stands is “dead.” Its search algorithm analyzes the pages and links that users have left behind, but it has almost no first-hand knowledge of any of the users who created this content. The users are all anonymous. Facebook, on the other hand, has created a platform that knows more than 600 million people, complete with identity, interests, and activities online.

If Google’s business has been built on choosing which Web pages, out of all those in the universe, are most likely to appeal to any given (but anonymous) query string, think about this: Facebook already knows, for the most part, which pages appeal to whom—specifically and directly.

And, even more powerfully, Facebook knows each of our individual and collective behavior patterns well enough to predict what we’ll like even without us expressing our intent.

This key difference could give Facebook a tremendous advantage in search when it eventually decides to move in that direction.

And that’s the real threat of Facebook and other social companies to Google. Eventually, users will realize they can get a lot of the information they need — particularly shopping recommendations — without ever conducting a search.

Google is the past, rooted firmly in AltaVista.com-type methods. Google is anchored in brute force solutions, and Facebook operates on a membership basis. Facebook is, like it or not, the future of information access: gated, incomplete, social, and essentially cut loose from precision and recall unless intermediated through friends.

In a future where search and discovery is intermediated by social, Google looks to be off guard. Even Eric Schmidt agrees!

Read earlier posts on the same subject:

Facebook and Google on collision course (Part II)
Traffic, Stickiness and Engagement: Facebook steals the march over Google
The debate on Searchability versus Sociability of the Net: Facebook versus Google
Facebook and Google on Collision course

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