When Google featured the content of its Plus network prominently in its search results, calling it ‘Search plus Your World’, it immediately drew criticism from other social networks with claims it was favouring its own products in the results.
This was Google’s attempt to make ‘social signals’ more visible. Real-time updates producing a more dynamic, contextual search result. Users complained as well because Google Plus didn’t have the critical mass to make the network of choice for ‘social search’. It backed off, but still uses social signals from all the networks in its algorithm.
But yesterday (Jan 15, 2013), Facebook pulled a brand new search engine out of its blue and white hat!
‘Graph’ is what Facebook calls it’s map of data, and the new search engine, Graph Search, still in beta, will use data from users’ graphs in order to produce dynamic results that will never be alike in the same search run by two different people. See the official launch videos. Facebook has the critical mass, but can it build a search engine?
Each search is based on friends, likes, shares, etc. In fact, anything that Facebook knows about you, it will use to return a search result. Assuming your privacy settings allow it that is.
Potentially, this is going to be, and I use the word carefully, awesome. And it’s clearly why Facebook wants you to have no privacy.
Facebook has the social infrastructure that Google didn’t, so it’s in a much better position to deliver a socially-driven search engine, if it can.
Look at this comparison:
Google’s key strength is search, and it’s approach with ‘Search Plus Your World’ was to use the data it held in Google Plus to produce a more personal, search result.
Facebook’s key strength is social data, and it’s approach with Graph Search is to use the data it holds in the ‘social graph’ to produce a more personal, search result.
So there are distinct similarities with what each is trying to achieve, albeit from different angles. Google building a social network around its search engine and Facebook building a search engine around its social network.
Will they clash?
I’ve always maintained that there’s only one company that can do anything better than Facebook at the moment, and that’s Facebook itself. Its massive strength is its database, or its map, as it likes to call it. Google can’t match that. It can’t suddenly come up with a billion engaged users. It took Facebook nine years. So this will only make it harder for Google to compete on social turf.
But compete they will. Clash is the wrong word though. Graph Search will make Google sit up and try harder to beat off Facebook, particularly as it moves seriously into search. Facebook will try to stop Google Plus gaining ground on it. What’s at stake here is quite clearly the revenue from advertising, and both will want to cash in on an emerging ‘social search’, and neither will stop trying.
Facebook is going through a rough patch as businesses are starting to show signs of losing faith in it as a marketing tool, but if analytics show a new social spike, where Graph Search starts to produce more referrals to pages and websites, then it will be on the right track.
Google is fighting fit following its Panda and Penguin updates and it’s already demonstrated that while Google Plus is good, its not going to be an instant success.The only thing we don’t know for sure is just how good Facebook’s search engine is going to be.