The war of words in the search industry in 2013 has started with a bang. There is little love lost between the giants of the technology, internet, and search industries. Billion dollar lawsuits are thrown around just as quickly as harsh words, and there are a lot of harsh words. There are several intriguing plots to follow in 2013, and most of them start with the FTC’s decision to drop their suit against Google.
Google started 2013 with a big win as the long-brewing anti-trust lawsuit that was being pushed by competitors targeting Google Search was dropped. The FTC decided not to pursue the suit because, as Google has frequently repeated, competition is just a click away. It found that other search engines, such as Bing and Ask, were competent and readily available to users. The FTC also ruled that Google’s search tool was not favoring Google products and that ads on Google were sufficiently marked as ads.
Before Bing and the rest of the non-Google crowd could recover and respond to their loss in their push to stop Google in the courtroom, Facebook has announced its newest major initiative: Graph Search. This is an entirely new tool on Facebook and should unleash the power of social search in ways that we have never seen. Both Google and Bing include social search functions, but neither search engine’s feature has gained popularity or recognition. Facebook’s graph search will allow users to create hyper-selective searches using social connections as “filters” that will lead the user to the most relevant results. Graph Search will only look within Facebook, so it is not a direct competitor to either Bing or Google Search. This social search product does focus squarely on providing users with the most relevant search results, which aims directly at what web searches try to provide their users. Facebook Graph Search will provide users with a flexible tool that can consider several factors that web searches are currently have no way of knowing. It benefits business with well qualified leads who have self selected their way to a company’s Facebook page. While Graph Search is still in Beta and will not be a public product for some time, it appears primed to take a major shot at changing the way Facebook users think about search.
Google web search cannot currently do what Graph Search will allegedly accomplish, but their social product, Google+, has similar capabilities. Google+ was launched to help Google collect its user’s data and provide more relevant, and even socially powered, search results. Recently, in another scintillating salvo in the search wars, Google leader Larry Page used an interview with Wired to take several shots at Facebook. He said that Google+ still has an opportunity to thrive because Facebook has done “a really bad job with their products.” While Page doesn’t elaborate on what he doesn’t like about Facebook, but it’s not hard to believe that this is in part motivated by the jealousy that Googlers must feel over the attention and cautious praise being lavished upon Facebook and their yet-to-be-public social search tool. It is impossible to know which social search is more powerful and will provide the best results; very few people have used Graph Search. But Facebook already has the one thing that Google+ has always wanted and the key element to any social search: active users. It’s hard to bet against a social search function that laps the field in terms the active users which make up the social part of social search.
By Andrew Wise