Mark Higginson

How people's attention flows on the web


25 October 2012

Facebook is pretty uniquely positioned to answer the questions people have. At some point we’ll do it. We have a team working on it.

Facebook’s search functionality is awful and unlikely to improve. What matters from a revenue point-of-view is which search terms are profitable and the volume at which you can generate clicks on those terms. Every other result just ensures that when people think ‘search’ and want to make one of those profitable queries they come to you.

The angle a lot of pundits are taking is that Facebook has all this ‘social data’ that will allow them to deliver relevant results based on people’s preferences. My educated guess is that the kind of stuff people share on Facebook is not going to build you a terribly great index. Also, Facebook reflects people I know socially and not what I’m interested in; that can be derived from my search history, which Google owns.

On top of that much of Facebook’s behaviour has indicated it wants to create a ‘walled garden’ within which it can keep its users clicking. What they can do differently that is suitably compelling to cause people to switch from the incumbent is hard to see. Do you ‘Bing’? I thought not.

Zuckerburg is going to need more than ‘a team’ working on search. Google are reputed to employ 7,100 people on the Google Maps project alone. Why? Because finding things in the real world is just as important as being able to find things on the web. Facebook has just over 3,000 employees in total.

Thing is, these stories are great for Google, anything to distract from the truth that it has a stranglehold on search and can therefore behave in an egregiously monopolistic way whenever it so chooses.

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