The rumors are true! Facebook is wading in the search engine pool. That is, the platform is now plugging open graph-enabled pages into Facebook search results.
If you thought the Facebook Open Graph and tools such as the Like button for webpages were a teeny bit silly/confusing/strange, you're not alone. The platform's introduction of these capabilities at the f8 Developer Conference seemed important, but many were unsure of exactly how, other than to boost Facebook Connect.
Turns out they're stitching together the foundation for Facebook's search strategy. The method is different from the likes of Google because while traditional engines rely on an indexing system, Facebook is betting on their Like button.
Here's how it works: You stumble across an open-graph enabled webpage. You Like the webpage. Now the webpage will show up in your Facebook search results. Obviously, this capability will cause more publishers to optimize their sites for Facebook, and more Facebook users to Like what they like.
...of Social Semantic Search
While semantic search itself isn't a new concept, actual semantic search engines have proved to be difficult to nail down. Add what is nearly 500 million users to the equation and we'd say Facebook has a very good chance at making a breakthrough.
This approach is significant for a couple of reasons. Firstly, social semantic search isn't high maintenance like a traditional infrastructure, which is massive and requires constant updating in order to index the Web. Instead, webmasters do all the work. Secondly, the results are based on user interaction, making them much more relevant.
Link Like Me!
Facebook's been big on button-pushing since its early poking days, but when the platform enabled users to Like the entire Web earlier this year, they essentially stamped their brand all over the 'net. This may have seemed like an ostentatious act of self-service back then, but today we wonder if the Like button is on its way to replacing links.
"I'm already seeing it," wrote Mashable's founder and CEO, Pete Cashmore, back in April. "Thousands of sites are adding Facebook's version of semantic data in preference to the open standards as Facebook becomes the new kingmaker. In the week since launch, more than 50,000 Web sites have added Facebook's "social plug-ins." All of which will make it blissfully easy for Facebook to organize the Web. Facebook Optimization may be the new SEO."
Mark Drummond of Search Engine Watch used the term "tribal search" (coined by Jonathan Allen) when noting similar benefits of the approach, as well as the cons. "One defining benefit is that we will be able to search the Web and have our search results ranked according to what our particular 'tribe' thinks is good," he said.
On the other hand, he also pointed out that searching within our Facebook walls could "easily become a way of reinforcing existing preferences and biases. We could end up searching for exactly what we expect to find, and then find only things that don't surprise us."
Will Caffeine Keep Google Going?
Presently, Facebook's foray into search doesn't change the fact that objective perspective is still the most appropriate in many instances. Most times you don't know what you're looking for until you find it. In other words: Google isn't going anywhere.
Big G has had the future of search in mind as well. Caffeine, the engine's new indexing system, proves it. "With Caffeine, we analyze the web in small portions and update our search index on a continuous basis, globally," said Google Software Engineer, Carrie Grimes. "As we find new pages, or new information on existing pages, we can add these straight to the index. That means you can find fresher information than ever before — no matter when or where it was published. We've built Caffeine with the future in mind. Not only is it fresher, it's a robust foundation that makes it possible for us to build an even faster and comprehensive search engine that scales with the growth of information online."
What do you think? Will one method overrule the other? We'd like to think they'll peacefully co-exist, but it doesn't look like either company is ready to call a truce.