6 reasons to ignore Facebook search (for now)

Ian Lurie

I’m ready to party like it’s 1999! The bubble is back. Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook may build a search engine. We all hyperventilate and swoon. Facebook shares go up 7.7% so fast the line chart breaks:

Facebook shares spike after Mark Zuckerberg says 'search'

Batten down the hatches, Google! The big bad Facebook has set its sights on you!

Or not.

Take a deep breath, everyone.

This is an awful lot of hype over something that only exists in Mark Zuckerberg’s mind. Here are 6 reasons to take a deep breath, hold on to your money, and stop measuring Google for a casket:

  1. Lack of proof. Facebook’s current search technology is a laughingstock in the search community. Before I get all excited about a legitimate Google competitor, I need evidence Facebook has the know-how to not make an utter fool of themselves.
  2. Lack of expertise. Search is really complicated. I won’t say it’s more complicated than building a social network, but I will say it’s very different. Where will Facebook get their expertise? Yes, a few Googlers have jumped ship. But that’s not enough. They need true search visionaries leading the team.
  3. Spam. You can’t base a search engine purely on EdgeRank (part of Facebook’s authority/connection measurement algorithm). It’s far too easy to manipulate. If you think Google’s search results are riddled with spam, wait ’til you can rank #1 in Facebook Search with $200 and a Mechanical Turk account.
  4. Privacy. A competitive Facebook search tool will have to capitalize on the wealth of user data they have. That will reveal huge, ongoing privacy issues we all previously ignored.
  5. Other failures. Before Facebook talks search, they need a mobile app that loads in a reasonable time. And fix the blank squares photo issue. And figure out how to perfect their ad platform. And make up for their e-mail switch debacle. And… You get the picture. Search would be their biggest undertaking, ever. Better prove you can knock out the simple stuff first, guys.
  6. Only a flesh wound. Even if Facebook succeeds, it will hardly ‘kill’ Google. Will it make a dent in their market share? Yes, and that’d be a really good thing. But it won’t do a company who’s name is now a synonym for ‘search’ any fatal damage.

Where’s the search?

If you want me to jump on the Facebook Search Bandwagon, show me something. Anything. Show me one sign that Facebook understands search. Show me search results that aren’t recycled from Bing. Demonstrate you can build and deploy a decent mobile app.

Right now, Facebook search is 100% pure vapor. Don’t take my word for it. Check out the Chicago Tribune:

“But it was Zuckerberg’s talk of search that had Wall Street analysts and technology insiders abuzz on Wednesday, even if they couldn’t agree on what exactly a Facebook search service would look like or how imminent such a service was.” —Chicago Tribune

Understand: I’m no Google fanboy. But the big G still has technology decades ahead of everyone else, and they’ve cornered the market on the best information discovery brains in the business. What, exactly, is Facebook’s ace in the hole here?

Discuss below. Or talk to me on Twitter

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  1. Couldn’t agree more, Ian. We are, after all, talking about a company that forgot to put a “share” button next to existing wall content in their mobile app. Maybe they spent all their money on the latest version of the iPhone app in optimizing it for Farmville.

  2. I’m absolutely with you, Ian. Facebook Search often doesn’t even deliver my friends’ profiles when I type in their name. It’s pitiful. This would have been a better announcement for Facebook to make on April Fool’s Day.

  3. This reminds me of a search company who tried to beat ‘THE’ social company at their game. While one’s not social, the other needs more engineering prowess to even count.

  4. This is the most lucid article I’ve read on the subject of Facebook search so far. Facebook search is a joke and I really doubt if they will ever make this a priority anytime soon but Wall Street people who got battered by FB stock going south will grab on anything.

  5. Dear Ian,
    I really think that you’re nailing it!
    To even think it’s plausible for Facebook to build a search engine that can compete with Google in matter of years is unrealistic in my eyes. I wish them good luck 🙂
    And I agree that they better focus on making Facebook better and staying on top of the social game instead of trying to compete in a market that’s not theirs.

  6. I know that Zuckerberg says they’re going to get into search, but I don’t know if their whole social search will be able to scale.

  7. Did Mark did spread this word of information to gain max traffic for his website or to increase his Stock value on Share Market ???
    Hope for surprises from Mark as the genius can take the crowd as he wants.

  8. When you’re good at something, you’ll tell everyone. When you’re great at something, they’ll tell you ~ Walter Payton #quote
    Google have a huge head start and they’re VERY good at ‘Search’. Facebook need to focus on ‘Mobile’ now, not ‘Search’…
    Great piece Ian.

  9. I do agree with you, Mark Zuckerberg made a mess of Facebook shares recently. I think he is just making these search noises to boost the shares.
    Keep up the good work

  10. I think he’ll have the last word. Some day. But you’re right, it will be a WHILE before it’s not just vapor, and people are reacting for nothing.

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