There was an announcement this week, that Bing and Facebook are going to team up to create their version of social search. The interweb is in overtweet with pejorative, condescending and downright ugly posts portending absolute failure. I hope they are wrong.
Social search may or may not be a good idea. We all use an offline version of it everyday with our family, friend and colleagues. We are social animals and we tend to like things that people in our trust circles like. In theory, an online version of social search should be a useful tool – but … to quote Barry Fischer, “Perhaps the extraordinary success of Google has blinded us to the need for more tools.”
It is easy to fall into the “Google is a Search Engine” trap. Google is a search engine, but it is not optimized to deliver the information you are looking for. Google is optimized to deliver a highly-targeted “for profit” advertisement that you are likely to click on. Organic search results are the filler between the ads — just like articles in newspapers are filler between ads and television and radio programs are filler between commercials.
If you don’t believe that Google is an optimized ad engine, simply go to adwords.google.com and read the fine print. Google delights in telling you that the more relevant your adwords ads are, the higher they will place on a page and the less expensive they will be.
I’m not here to Google bash, I love Google and I use it dozens of times a day, but — to bastardize a favorite Churchill quote, “Google is the worst form of search engine, except all those others that have been tried.”
With that in mind, how could anyone say anything bad about an attempt to leverage search and social web connections? The goal for everyone should be to create the best possible set of filtering and search tools. Information is not knowledge and data points out of context are downright dangerous. Could Bing and Facebook craft a search tool that actually delivers a more relevant result than a Google search? Wouldn’t it be awesome?
On to the more interesting stuff — Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook’s founder and CEO) should have made this deal with Google. He didn’t. He is quoted in saying that Microsoft is the underdog and that he believes that the Bing team will work harder and be more willing to innovate.
What is shaping up here is a fight for connected dominance. Facebook is not a website, it is an application that you can access from any connected device. It empowers you to stay in touch with your friends all the time. Google is not a website either, it is a database of almost every bit of publicly published online data, and it empowers you to stay in contact with that information.
Google has failed at all of its attempts to create a social web experience. Facebook has the worst internal search engine imaginable. How will this all play out?
The cynic in me says that this is a last ditch effort by Microsoft to breath life into it’s suboptimal search business. Teaming up with #2 search engine, Yahoo! did nothing to Google. So, now, Microsoft will try to leverage the perceived conflict between Facebook and Google to try to get something going. Of course, that’s the cynic in me. The optimistic happy me says that Facebook and Bing are onto something excellent and that there is a real chance that, for 500+ million users, search will become more useful. I wonder what the other five billion connected computer, cellphone and smartphone users will do? I guess they’ll use Google.