A Battle of Epic Proportions? Probably Not.
Facebook has changed a lot about how we communicate, and now it seems that Facebook wants to change how we find information, too. Facebook’s Graph Search is one of Mark Zuckerberg’s latest attempts at making the social network even more innovative. He hopes that the search engine, which will show results based on a person’s network of friends and their likes, will take on Google as a new form of search. However, as many pundits have pointed out, there are some problems standing in Facebook’s way.
And in spite of Google CEO Larry Page’s insistence that Facebook and Google don’t have to be rivals, the comparisons have been steadily streaming in, ever since Graph Search started making its way around the Internet. The following roadblocks currently stand in Facebook’s way, as it seeks to give Google something to worry about.
1.) The “Dirty Like”
“Dirty likes” are the likes that a business gains for reasons other than true affection for the business. For example, some users may like a business because it gives an incentive to do so, such as a discount, coupon, or other offer in exchange for likes. And, some likes may not show what a person’s true feelings for a business are. A man may “like” a certain auto repair business, not because he truly likes it, but because it’s the closest and most convenient to him. This skews Graph Search results, showing users not what their friends like, but what they use, and there’s a big difference between the two.
2.) Not Helpful for All Users
For the average user, who has around 141 friends, Facebook’s Graph Search can be an asset. For the user with fewer or more friends, however, the Graph Search won’t be as helpful. In the former case, the results can be too limited. In the latter case, the results can be too broad. Compare this to Google, which is more egalitarian, since search results don’t depend on your social connections. If not all users can get what they need out of Graph Search, it’s unlikely the tool will take off as a serious search contender.
3.) Privacy Concerns
In order for Graph Search to succeed, it needs more user buy-in, meaning more data from users. However, because of the PRISM scandal that revealed the U.S. National Security Agency’s monitoring of Internet activity, users are feeling wary of sharing content nowadays. Given this breach in privacy, Graph Search has its work cut out for it during the days ahead.
4.) Mobile Search
Another factor challenging Graph Search is the rise of mobile search, using voice-activated tools such as Siri. Both Google and Bing have claimed part of this market, with the Google Now app and Siri, which will use Bing on iPhones with iOS7 and onward. Since Graph Search is still in its infancy, and since it suffers the limitations discussed above, it isn’t as primed to be a voice search tool as more formal search engines.
Competition from Another Part of Google
Given all of these challenges, Tech Crunch’s Sarah Perez is cautiously optimistic about Graph Search. “As Facebook begins to leverage its own network of third-party app developers’ data and more,” she writes, “it could challenge Google not as a better way to search the web, but at least in terms of more time spent on Facebook’s network and clicking on Facebook’s — not Google’s — ads.” But there’s another element that complicates things, one that doesn’t seem to be getting as much attention in the sound-offs over Facebook and Google, and one that may be more important to look at than just Google alone. What is it?
And here’s the thing: Google’s social network does not use ads, letting users see only what they want to see. Since G+ users don’t face the same pressure that leads to “dirty likes,” their circles are more likely to reflect their own personal interests. So even though Facebook has a much larger user base than Google+, the latter gives users a more personal experience. Plus, the fact that a person can access Gmail, Drive, and YouTube, all on the same website, while also finding personalized search results thanks to G+, is nothing to sneeze at, either.
In the end, Facebook faces several challenges that could prevent Graph Search from becoming the giant it wants to be. Dirty likes, user activity, privacy concerns, and mobile voice search will all affect its success in the future. So even though the nature of search is changing with social search results, Google still remains on top for search overall. However, all of the articles that have been sounding off on Facebook vs. Google seem to be missing the point. A more apt comparison over the next few months will closely look at how Graph Search vs. Google+ performs.
What do you think of Graph Search vs. Google+? Do you prefer one over the other?