Today Facebook announced Graph Search, a new search tool that will help its users sort through personal data on the social network’s platform. According to the social giant, Graph Search “and web search are very different.”
Given the close relationship between Facebook and Microsoft – Microsoft once having invested hundreds of millions into the other company, and the inclusion of Bing into Facebook’s on-site search results – what this development means for the two firm’s work together is a key question; if Bing, Microsoft’s search technology, were to lose its spot inside of Facebook, it would be a blow to the project’s prospects.
Happily for Bing, Facebook intends to provide its search results whenever the information requested is not present in the Social Graph. Thus, Bing will live on inside of Facebook, albeit in a slightly diminished role.
Results that are from Bing, and not from Facebook itself, will be tagged as ‘Web,’ indicating to users that the information is coming from an off-site, out-of-network source.
Microsoft invests billions on a yearly basis into Bing, which is more than a pure web search engine; still, every project has a price point at which it becomes untenable. Bing is not near that point, but if it lost ground, and thus more money, it might be forced to restructure.
However, this is not to say that Graph Search is good news for Bing; it is not. To be frank, Graph Search is working with data that was never available to either Bing or Google. This means that a pool of information that both wanted access to, presumably, has been set aside as forever, again presumably, off-limits.
Social search will never completely replace web search, just as web search is not the full answer to the search question. However, even as Bing has kept a key part of its relationship with Facebook, it was not allowed to help build the next generation of search on that platform. As TNW’s Robin Wauters noted, a fair question is whether individuals will move from normal web search to social search for certain queries, and if so how often. This could weaken the main market that it is targeting.
And as a final thought: both Google and Microsoft can’t build search products that compete with this on toe to toe basis, period. This makes Facebook a niche, but key, new player in the search space as it has its own ace: one trillion connections.
Bing didn’t lose fantastically today, but it certainly didn’t do much else.
Top Image Credit: Kate Ter Haar