Nearly a year ago, Facebook indexed everyone’s posts so that search not only finds other users but to also tracked conversations around trending topics. In Facebook’s constant effort to improve its search function, the company has now made another bold and innovative move.
Facebook recently announced the company has indexed the entirety of the 2 trillion posts that have been made to the site, making them all searchable; assuming the posts have been made public. This essentially converts the search tool into a digital time capsule, allowing users to take a look into past posts, comments, and shared stories. Additionally, this gives Facebook the ability to track what people are talking about in real-time; a feat that only Twitter has mastered in the social arena.
In Facebook’s Oct. 22 post, the social network said, “When something happens in the world, people often turn to Facebook to see how their friends and family are reacting. Today, we’re updating Facebook Search so that in addition to friends and family, you can find out what the world is saying about topics that matter to you.” And considering that the average U.S. consumer spends 40 minutes on Facebook each day, or roughly 20 percent of all time spent online, it hosts a massive percentage of all links.
In the evolution of the new tool, users can now search broad terms such as “NFL,” and Facebook will return a well ordered list of posts. The arrangement will start with authoritative sources such as news outlets. The list will then begin to funnel down to conversations of friends – what is posted, liked, commented on, shared, and so forth. As users get deeper into the search, posts from strangers regarding the same topic will begin to appear. The results are “organized to help you cut through the noise and quickly understand what the world is saying about a topic in the moment.”
Rousseau Kazi, a product manager on Facebook’s search team, commented on this upgrade by stating, “Because we’ve indexed the entire world’s conversations, we tell you things that are trending, things that are breaking, what’s happening right now. The whole idea here is that if you can group these pieces of content in certain ways, it makes it pretty easy to get the full story.”
This move by Facebook seems to be an attempt to not only challenge Google’s authority as the world’s most prevalent search engine, but also as a direct rebuttal to Twitter’s Moments feature.
Moments launched earlier this month and allows users to quickly grasp the day’s top stories through tweets, pictures, and videos, organized in a streamlined fashion.
Whether the upgrade is a counterstatement to Twitter or not, this may just be the next natural evolution of social media networks. Each day, an unfathomable amount of stories, photos, links, and posts are shared online. By social search engines processing this information and displaying it in a digestible manner, users are far more likely to remain on the site instead of searching for knowledge elsewhere. Especially considering that the search will be tailored specifically to the user.
Facebook’s Vice President of Search, Tom Stocky, commented on this by stating, “We have to balance two things: how are the authors relevant to you and how is what they’re posting relevant to what you’re searching for.” This means that every search that is conducted will be slightly tweaked depending on the user’s history.
But this amped up search feature does not come without its concerns. The most critical issue at stake is privacy. Up until this point, users have been able to make posts and comment on articles without worry that those words would remain prominent. Now users must think twice before posting anything for the consequences could come back to bite them years later. Kazi and Stocky have both confirmed that users will be able to search for past events, find popular articles that were posted, and read through the comments section too.
The bottom line here is that if you do not want your posts to be searched and viewed by the entire Facebook community, now is the time to update your privacy settings. Some may argue, however, that Facebook does not have the best track record of protecting its user’s privacy.
But no matter if you are for or against this move, it’s happening. As the new and improved search feature permeates desktop and mobile devices across the world, it will be interesting to see if a significant shift will occur in how people obtain information on trending topics or if this move will simply be Facebook’s next Graph Search – a massive bust.
Do you think that in years to come, Facebook could possibly rival Google as the world’s #1 search engine?