Before getting into the answer to the question above, I would like your full attention first. Something big is coming your way! Later don’t blame me that I didn’t warned about it. Something is going to change the way we perceive so-called “Web Search” till now or may be it very well change our habits altogether. Okay, let me cut down the c**p and get to the point. Yes, today finally I was able to play with the real-time search feature that Facebook launched couple of days back (actually it was a phased roll-out). And seriously the things I saw and the way I interpreted things, there is more hint to the next generation of social search evolving than just plain vanilla features which many distributed search companies have tried to come out with.

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Facebook Real Time Search Screenshot

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I especially liked the way, Steve Rubel put the whole idea into his Lifestream Blog post:

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I found it fascinating that the very first question in the official FAQ positions the tool foremost as a news discovery engine. I think that with a few additions like geo-tagging, alerts and better content discovery tools (e.g. show me trends from my friends’ friends), they’re moving toward potentiality something huge. The Friendfeed team I am sure will help them.

A question to ponder: what does this mean for journalism and PR? A lot. As Facebook Search grows and, yes, learns, it will become a lot more powerful. Over time, it could change our habits and accelerate what many of us are doing now – becoming source agnostic. Lots to consider here. This, folks, is a very very big deal. And it’s just the beginning. If you think about the number of sites that use Facebook Connect and ponder whether the crawl could span to those satellites as well, suddenly you can see a new era for search emerging. Google should be scared. Facebook may have a leg in here – if they can keep their community growing.
Yes, even I agree to some extent whatever he said. Although, if we hover over it, it gives a feeling of primitive search. But we have to also remember that now Facebook’s arsenal has some top-class engineers; especially after Friendfeed’s team who joined them consists of ex-Googlers who had managed many successful products in the past and not mentioning that Friendfeed itself is a technological innovation and its search capability was well documented and critically complimented across the tech-fraternity. So definitely its a boon for Facebook to go forward. Also not forgetting that Facebook has a huge user base i.e. about 250 million odd users which provides rich social interaction within the system. One problem though would be the close system they operate in, although slowly openness is something they are looking at since it would be critical in the long run.
Also Facebook is sitting on pile of information which would in turn help them to return much larger and broader data sets to marketers and spenders who are in the prowl to grab the social-web and make a killing out of it. In addition, since Facebook has much deeper data on user identity, it should be able to provide even richer types of aggregate real time search data if it so desires.
Moreover, Facebook has the potential to displace replace Google and other search engines for queries on content discovery, product recommendations, news, and more. And this is where most of the advertisers money is spent online. While Google enjoys huge authority based on link-structure but Facebook can do so from its intertwined social proximity which it already has in its system. And if Facebook makes it easier for users to do real time searches from its wide variety of applications, it could become a more significant search player in the future, which in turn could drive substantial new revenue streams for the company. At least, accrues from local business can get a huge boost.
So we are at a very critical time, when the web is evolving at the speed of light, so as to say. Rest as they say, is History!
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