[/vc_raw_html][text_output]On October 22, Facebook announced the launch of Search FYI, now available in the US on iPhone, Android and Desktop. Facebook’s index contains 2 trillion historical posts by its users and the Social Media giant already handles 1.5 billion searches per day. By collating this vast inventory of information and serving results from reputable news sources, friends and the public on the same screen, users can view personalised results, see reactions and join the conversation within one search results page.
So, why have Facebook waited until now to launch this feature?
Given that Larry Page admitted Google were too late to enter the Social Media fray, is this an example of Facebook committing a similar folly by entering a saturated Search market? After all, there are only so many searches out there and volumes are stabilising. Furthermore, Facebook’s 1.5 billion searches per day are undoubtedly of a less commercial nature than the 3.5 billion searches Google handles daily, so this statistic does not tie directly to commercial potential.
A more probable interpretation is that Facebook is seeking to take its competitive advantage and gain a specific share of the market. They know who you are, where you are and what your friends like. So if personalisation, local results and recommendations are crucial criteria in our decision-making process, Facebook has a clear advantage. As such, the attempt to broaden its set of search queries to include those with a commercial intent could bring very profitable returns.
This approach is in diametric opposition to Google’s use of their Knowledge Vault to rank sites based on truthfulness over popularity, and is in direct competition to Google AdWords and Google Now. The latter seems a more likely – and profitable – long-term target.
How will Facebook monetise Search FYI?
Facebook is the most popular app in the US, by some distance. Second on the list? Facebook Messenger. It is by linking the complementary strengths of these two apps that Facebook will be able to monetise its Search functionality most effectively.
The concept of a digital assistant is no longer new, with Google Now, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana all quite well established. But Facebook’s venture into this domain with its new “M” (currently in beta with around 10,000 users) is a new development and potentially a revealing one.
How will these new features affect advertising?
M (the timely Bond reference surely isn’t a coincidence) will be integrated with Messenger, so if chat becomes an interface for surfacing new information rather than traditional search engines, the advantage may well be with Facebook.
In addition, the data gleaned from user’s profiles, interactions and search histories, coupled with their interactions with M, could make this a very powerful platform for direct response advertising. The input data could ultimately be of a similar – if not higher – quality than Google’s, and should the AI running M continue to develop at its current pace, the output should follow suit.
To put it more bluntly, Search FYI may one day function as a data capture mechanism for Facebook’s digital assistant, with users spending both more time and more money within their ecosystem. The testing of the opt-in “Photo Magic” feature is just another (slightly more concerning) attempt by Facebook to reach ever deeper into its users’ lives, so this move is certainly not an isolated one.
Speculative though that may be, one thing is for certain: the world’s tech giants are going head-to-head as they each aim to create their own self-contained cosmos, and competition typically begets progress.
As a result, perhaps in the near future the question will not be whether AI has advanced enough to provide a seamless and useful extension to our daily life, but rather whether we are prepared to surrender enough of our own personal information to feed the machine’s appetite.[/text_output][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][visibility type=”hidden-desktop”][gap size=”20px”][/visibility][vc_widget_sidebar sidebar_id=”ups-sidebar-2″][/vc_column][/vc_row]