There’s been a lot of talk on the Internet about how Facebook has the upper hand on Google in search and therefore Google is dead; this due to Facebook’s extraordinarily vast amount of social data. Stories such as Why Google Wont Survive the Facebook Threat and TechCrunch’s assessment of Google’s dataset as being an ossified relic akin to the Dead Sea Scrolls all paint of picture of Google’s algorithm chasing down “fossilized” content. Claiming something is dead when it isn’t is merely media power-word talk to get eyeballs and we should be critical of such headlines and stories.
The assertion is that Facebook will one day enter into the world of search, more specifically social search, and has a one-up on Google as it has been gathering data from individuals via their Facebook posts and Likes that have been clicked all over the Internet. Information is powerful, especially when you are in the business of providing it to your constituents. Imagine a search engine that is tailored to you personally as the information of your friends, and friends-of-friends have been aggregated, processed and then used to shoot out pages of results based on this information with the aim of giving you relevant searches based on your interests and the interests of others. This is a powerful tool as it could very well make irrelevant data shift downward on the results page.
The Downside to Social Search
The New York Times posted an interesting article based on an old idea; The Trouble With the Echo Chamber Online describes a world of “feedback loops” and “filter bubbles” in which Internet users are only collecting information based on the groups and news sources they affiliate themselves with. Getting all of your news from the Huffington Post for left leaning individuals or Fox News for the right affiliated would theoretically funnel people into a single-minded view as to how the world is. So why not the same with a social circle? If we take the Facebook social search to the logical extreme, Facebook would provide a web search (much like Google’s) that would adjust all of the search results based on yours and your friends interests and likes. A feedback loop can ensue. Having such tailored results means that my window to the world is skewed in order to fit me and my social circle’s beliefs, interests and ideology. What if I wanted an objective portal to the world dictated by a computer algorithm providing me with unbiased results? This is not possible with social search.
The Good About Social Search
Social search, if done properly, should give more relevant results to what I am looking for. If I am a photographer and I’m searching for techniques, products or what-not related to such an industry, then the connections to my other photographer friends on my Facebook will help direct me to more relevant results rather than other results that may have been gamed by clever SEO. I could get some valuable information about products and services that my circle of friends find to be of good value or quality. There are many possibilities to social search.
Facebook and Google are Different
Google’s mission statement:
Google’s mission is to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.