I've been reading with great interest about Facebook's new search project - here are some thoughts on it and FB in general. Note I don't have access to the new product, so any FB search specific comments are based on reviews/ demos.
- Many innovations online have been built on a systemic distribution system that can deliver an audience without any brand marketing.
- google leads the way with its search omnipresence and the systemic distribution it provides (now known as SEO).
- FB had a window of systemic distribution through the news feed. Companies like Zynga were built on it. Those days are over. Users aren't enticed to try new products based on built-in viral features that force my friends to spam my news feed when they use a product.
- FB likes are important. By buying likes, I buy access to a user. Its akin to buying a subscription list. As long as they don't unlike me, i can reach them with a status update. Long term, this is probably a more effective form of spam than the social gmaes-spam model.
- FB search is a way to make likes even more important. "Show me San Fransico sushi restaurants my friends like" - think if Im a San Francisco sushi restaurant it makes sense to buy a few likes? Now a like brings me brand marketing access and FB SEO access.
Will this take over the world? Not right away. Search is a distribution game - you need to get right in front of the user to get them to remember to use your search product. Maybe they peel off the % of my searches when Im looking for friends recommendations - collectively, probably not an insignificant amount. Maybe this is the product they need to go do a deal with Firefox or Opera to get the default search box in those products (now THAT would shake the industry).
But, FB search is an interest product. But not systemic distribution level yet.