I don’t use Facebook much…I’m too old, too busy, have no friends etc etc, but I realize I’m almost alone in that respect. Something close to 20% of humanity uses it and about half of them spend all the spare time they can on it. One reason I don’t use it much is the search is horrible. It’s not just bad..it’s horrible. What’s worse is that it goes against the search behavior a good chunk of the same humanity has been trained in over the past decade or so. Let me illustrate the point. Go to FB and search for “Samsung 3d TV” you get a splashy Samsung page with great info about which people liked the TV. Then try the search “Golf Pro Temecula CA” the results here feature one Kyle Dalton. I now know more than I ever wanted to do about this fellow….but he appears to be a realtor who really really likes golf. There were no useful results or ads from any sources. Let’s assume I was one of the 10% of humanity who spends most of my life hanging out on FB and I wanted to check prices on a new TV or improve my laughably bad golf game I would have to leave FB to find an answer to my pressing questions. The fact that I have to do that simply beggars belief. Given the sheer volume of eyeballs FB has, making those same eyes go to the effort of looking someplace else simply to get information or buy something is sheer commercial lunacy.
If you try very hard you can force FB into giving you a results set powered by our friends at Bing but even that doesn’t carry ads. This has driven me quietly crazy for some time now so I was intrigued to see in the interview which Zuckerberg gave to Techcrunch this week in which he feels FB is “uniquely positioned” to go after search. Really? D’ya Think? I get that FB is a movement dedicated to the world getting along, and I get that Mr. Z has a vice like grip and a mission…but meantime would it kill FB to give the 10% of humanity who show up there every day anyway a decent search as well as saving the world? Estimates vary but there is certainly an easy 2-5 Billion dollars to be picked up for FB without them doing anything other than negotiating a killer deal with a search giant. The obvious candidate would be Google. They have the most advertisers, the best product etc etc. Google may think twice about that as they clearly see FB as a massive online threat but one of the key drivers for their early success was that they used to power the search at Yahoo. Eventually people figured out that they could get Google search without waiting for the Yahoo ads…and the rest is history.
Facebook is currently at war with Yahoo over several outstanding patent issues but wouldn’t a deal with Y! be a great intro towards making love not war? It would also be a great intro to marriage talks..but that may be a little ambitious. Beyond the immediate revenue jump FB would acquire they would have another even stronger component to add to their plans. One reason FB has been so heavily clobbered by the market of late is the fact that the world is going mobile and they have been horribly slow in coming up with how FB will make money in that space. Adding mobile search to the mobile FB experience is a screamingly obvious option. If I’m already on my mobile FB account why should I have to change App just to book a table for dinner or find a price to get my brakes fixed. There is a sack in the corner of the room packed with bullion and finally it looks like Mark might actually have found time to drive the forklift over and pick it up….Psst Mark….