Most observers will agree that Google+ has failed to set the social networking world alight, and is far from being a thorn in the side of Facebook. However, now that Mark Zuckerberg has confirmed he's serious about search, could Facebook possibly compete in the Google hood?
The Facebook founder and CEO has gone on the record to insist that "Facebook is pretty uniquely positioned to answer a lot of questions people have" and reveal that the social network is currently fulfilling a billion searches every day "and we’re not even trying".
Of course, the arguments have raged for years about how Facebook could leverage the information it holds and the most common response thrown into the mix is the perhaps a little too obvious one of advertising. Not that Facebook is ignoring the advertising income potential, but it's certainly not ignoring the evolution of search potential either. Zuckerberg has described the way that Google produces lists based partly upon keywords entered as "some magic" and warned that the online world is evolving and search engines have to evolve with it. People want to ask a question and get a set of answers, and that's where the "pretty uniquely positioned" quote comes into play.
Facebook now has a billion users, and is tracking what those members search for within the site. Zuckerberg has acknowledged that the News Feed feature at the heart of the Facebook user experience shouldn't be seen as just a window onto what your friends (and promoted brands) are saying within the social network itself, but rather thought of as something that will expand to become a window onto the wider Internet. In other words, Facebook is serious about competing with Google when it comes to being the default web navigational methodology.
Zuckerberg sees the trillions of connections between friend requests and Facebook content as being a starting point when it comes to mapping the web in a better, more natural, and more user responsive way than exists currently through the traditional link structure system. In a warning shot to Google last month, the Facebook CEO pointed out that the current level of in-house searching has hit a billion queries a day while "we’re basically not even trying". Given that a dedicated team is working on search, and given that Zuckerberg seems pretty serious in exploiting the opportunity to shake up the search market, Google might have good reason to be just a little worried about what happens next.
Earlier this year, a global survey by independent digital marketing agency Greenlight concluded that Facebook could potentially capture close to a quarter of the Search market were it to launch its own search engine tomorrow, making it the second most utilised search engine in every major market except for China, Japan, and Russia, where it would occupy an uncontested third place. The survey also suggested that Facebook could increase its share to 50% within a few years. "These stats suggest Facebook could capture around 22% of the global Search market by simply launching its own search engine tomorrow morning" according to Andreas Pouros, chief operating officer at Greenlight, who added "it wouldn't need to be a spectacular engine either, just well integrated into the Facebook experience and generally competent".