Facebook has put together a team to revamp its search product. Currently, Facebook users mainly search to find other people on the social network, usually their friends (works well) but sometimes to look up someone to friend (usually works). As Facebook pushes its new Subscription and Interest Lists features, and people increasingly use the search function to find public figures to subscribe to, the company is realizing it has an opportunity to significantly improve the underlying engine and the overall experience.
Facebook co-founder and CEO Zuckerberg hinted his company was working on changing search last month, though it's not clear if he did so on purpose or accidentally. As you can see in the cropped image above, he posted a photograph of his desk at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park. On his laptop, you can see a giant white space across the top of his Facebook profile that looks like a search bar. Check out the full image on his profile: My desk.
Currently, Facebook's search box can find other members, Facebook Pages, Facebook Events, Facebook Groups, and recent status updates from friends, as well as general Web search results powered by Microsoft's Bing search engine. Overall though, it's a big mess and doesn't do any of these particularly well, except for, as I've already mentioned, finding your own Facebook friends. So Menlo Park has started working on improvements, according to BusinessWeek:
Searching the social network could get a lot better in the near future. About two dozen Facebook engineers, led by a former Google engineer named Lars Rasmussen, are working on an improved search engine, say two people familiar with the project who did not want to be named because the company is in a quiet period ahead of its IPO. The goal, they say, is to help users better sift through the volume of content that members create on the site, such as status updates, and the articles, videos, and other information across the Web that people "like" using Facebook's omnipresent thumbs-up button.
In the bigger search market pie, Facebook is next to nonexistent. Google, Microsoft, Microsoft, Yahoo, Ask, and AOL all see more search queries than Facebook. Last month, Internet users made 17.6 billion explicit core searches, according to comScore. Facebook fielded 336 million search queries, compared to Google's 11.7 billion.
I doubt most Internet users will start suddenly using Facebook over Google for search, even Facebook manages to pull off an astounding search engine, but I do think the social networking giant has the opportunity to get more users searching on the site by making the search feature more robust.
After all, Facebook users already spend an aggregate of 10.5 billion minutes on the site daily. The company is looking at everything it can do to keep users on its site, and of course new revenue sources as it works to go public next month.
It's funny how the two biggest Internet players are heading in opposite directions. Google is looking to make its search service more social, while Facebook is looking make its social service more searchable.
I have contacted Facebook for more information and will update you if I hear back.
Update at 5:15 PM PST: Facebook declined to comment.