There are 1.5 billion searches on Facebook each day – translating to approximately half of Google’s 3.5 billion searches. While Facebook isn’t going to usurp Google anytime soon as the world’s top search engine, it has recently established itself as more than just a social media platform. After it’s shaky start as a publicly-traded company, Facebook has managed to find its footing, and, unlike Twitter, has found ways to successfully monetize itself. And while Facebook is – and always has been – a social media platform, as of late, it has shown significant financial potential in its business application sector.
Now, Facebook is looking to expand its capabilities, specifically regarding its search capabilities. With little fanfare, Facebook updated its search bar last October to include content produced by all users (with public profiles). This allows users’ status updates to appear in the results page of relevant Facebook searches. This is a departure from Facebook’s initial search bar, which, when introduced in 2004, could only be used to find other users’ profiles. Then in 2014, Facebook began to show status updates in the search bar, but only for friends or users who used a hashtag in their status.
Even today, the majority of Facebook searches are still for finding people. However, with a revamped search function, Facebook is hoping to make its search bar useful for more than just looking for people. Facebook aspires to compete with Google by using its social media capabilities to direct users to the most relevant and compelling information. Content with spelling errors, or produced by relatively unpopular users will be weeded out in favor of content Facebook’s bots deem as high-quality and engaging. Just like its “News Feed’s” algorithm, Facebook’s search will also factor in the familiarity between users in the posts it displays. For instance, if a person is hoping to find a new pair of sunglasses, they could use Facebook’s search bar to find sunglasses that received great reviews from the user’s friends.
Vice President of Facebook Search, Tom Stocky, is tasked with finding a way to make Facebook’s search as interactive and real-time as Twitter’s, while capturing the versatility of Google’s. Stocky affirms the search bar will only be a success “when people actually associate Facebook with answering the questions they have.”