A top Facebook Executive, Ethan Beard, has said that web search must go social and that Google and other search engines are failing to provide the results that users want, according an interview given to The Telegraph.
Ethan Beard argues that search needs to go social to create an improved product discovery mechanism. He claims that in the pre Internet era you would ask your friends for a recommendation.
“Before the Internet you would ask your friends for all your recommendations” he told The Telegraph
The basis for this point of view is that on mass e-commerce sites like Amazon this social element doesn’t exist and so the recommendation is missing. Mr Beard tells of wanting new luggage but not being able to find the luggage he wants or a recommendation in search.
According to The Telegraph he said that, “search needed to go social so that people could get really good product recommendations from their most trusted sources, their friends”
This layered approach is something that Google appear to be trialing with Google+ and the +1 button. In the future it may be the case that your connections in Google+ and their recommendations, or +1’s, will influence your search engine results.
Although Facebook only has a site search and no web search facility Mr Beard told The Telegraph, “I think search will go social.” He continued, “…friend referrals are a really powerful way to discover information and search is another way of discovering information and layering the two together seems like its going to be a significant improvement over keep them apart.”
Facebook, Social Search and Social Commerce
The true measure of success for any given search engine will always be directly linked to its ability to provide relevant results. For as long as current Google users find what their looking for by searching on Google they will keep using Google and there’s little that Facebook, for all its bluster, can do about it.
Social search, where your current search engine results would be altered according to the likes of friends, is only in its infancy. How much that would improve the search experience is open to debate. Many people have a wide and ever growing scope of Internet ‘friends’. Random acquaintances, old school friends and family members often make up the ‘friends list’ and how the recommendations of this group can improve your search experience remains to be seen.
Within e-commerce, recommendations from the community at large is nothing new, most products on Amazon have some reviews. Reviews from friends, with presumably some kind of weighting, is a newer concept. How this would actually work in reality, especially for anyone but the largest retailers is something else. If you permit reviews on an e-commerce site and no one reviews the products it can often be counter productive, giving the appearance of a shop that is rarely visited.
Search will become more social, Facebooks’ success has ensured that all things social remain at the top of the agenda, but what is unclear is how this will improve the search experience and the web as a whole.