Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announces Facebook Graph Search, Tuesday. The company hired ex-Googlers to work on the product, but can it succeed at both search and social??
Markets seemed to be less than thrilled with Facebook's super-secret announcement Tuesday. Facebook's stock (Nasdaq: FB) dropped 2.74 percent after the company revealed that its next big thing is search, not a Facebook phone as some had speculated.
If Facebook investors are skeptical that the company can nail search, they have good reason. Social and search should be friends, but so far they're not talking. Today, Google is the only major consumer Internet player that gets it right when it comes to search ? and Google's foibles with social are well-documented. Twitter's search function is barely capable.
Facebook's team of ex-Googlers may indeed have developed an internal search engine that works really well. But if it's seen as exposing my semiprivate life to the prying eyes of advertisers, credit bureaus, journalists and would-be stalkers, it won't last very long. Facebook's success in search depends upon far trickier things than technology.
Facebook is promising to limit public search results to things you've shared publicly: "Each person sees unique results." Still, there will be privacy doubters, and Facebook has a long history of privacy-related mistakes. To overcome all that, Facebook is going to have to come up with some use cases that are really compelling. Something like free email with unlimited storage and lightning-fast, unerring search. (No one complains that gmail is parsing their messages for search advertisers.)
Facebook's Graph Search demo video presents some pretty interesting possibilities for the new service: I'll be able to look up friends in foreign cities. I'll be able to find out which friends I could ask to train for a marathon with me. I'll be able to find photos of places, people and maybe even things that are happening right now.
Is one of those the killer app that will bring search and social together under Facebook's roof? Even if Graph Search does all those things flawlessly, like Wall Street I have my doubts.