'Like' is the new linkFacebook has never been too friendly with Google. Ever since it rejected the latter’s acquisition proposition and went with an investment from Microsoft instead, Facebook’s stance has been pretty clear. While it is winning the social web war and Google’s attempts to gain some relevancy in the field seem to have stumbled so far, it looks like it’s now taking on the Mountain View-based giant in its home turf, search.
According to All Facebook, the social network has confirmed that it is adding web pages, which have incorporated the Facebook Open Graph to the search results on the site. This, effectively, makes Facebook search a true search engine with content not just from its own closed walls but from the web at large.
Its approach may be different to Google’s, and indeed to any of the traditional search engines, but the target is clear. When Facebook ramps up this feature and as more and more websites implement the Open Graph, Facebook search will become a true alternative to Google search and one that may have more relevant results in many cases.
Facebook unveiled the Open Graph at the f8 developers conference. At the time, it seemed like the next logical step for Facebook Connect. A number of tools were introduced, among them the innocuous Like button for web pages. While everyone recognized that the feature was more important than it looked, most people still underestimated the impact.
Now that Facebook has confirmed that it will be a factor in search, the Like button is probably its most strategic weapon. Whereas search engines have always relied on their indexing prowess to scour the web for content, Facebook is making websites come to it.
Its approach has several advantages over the traditional search engine. For one, it doesn’t need a massive and constantly updating infrastructure to index the web, webmasters will do its work for it. The results themselves, since they are based on actual user interaction, are much more relevant, ‘likes’ will be much harder to game than links.
For certain types of searches, anything where the ‘people’s’ opinion matters, Facebook has the upper hand. However, there is a downside to this. There are still plenty of queries for which the popular opinion is not the best one and where an objective perspective will be the most appropriate. So, even in the most optimistic scenario for Facebook, Google is not going anywhere. Still, it’s going to make for some interesting years ahead of us.