The Future of Facebook . . . watch out Google

Last week I attended Media Post’s Search Insider Summit in Captiva Island, FL. Given the excellent location, I brought the family and made it a “workation.”  Having my kids (5 years old and 2 years old) there definitely gave me a different perspective on the current, and future, state of the Internet. Watching Grant navigate my iPhone with ease at just 5 years old, made me wonder how he’ll search for information in 2, 3 or even 5 years. My musing only increased as nearly every presentation discussed how consumers will access search in the future, or put another way, contextual search. But there was another topic that repeatedly came up . . . Facebook. But this was no coincidence, because I think Facebook is going to have a huge impact on how we find information in the near future. I’m talking about a Google-sized impact. Let me explain . . .

Several months ago Facebook released their new Open Graph API to developers. In “non-Internet-geek-language” it gives Facebook the ability to integrate with millions of different websites. This is a “two-way” relationship, so Facebook can share data/content with the website and the website can share data and content back to Facebook. At its most basic level, these websites will be able to host Facebook “Like” buttons on their site and that information will then be pushed back to Facebook. I’ll give you a delicious Fort Worth example.

I love Grady’s restaurant in Fort Worth. I’d call the food “Cowboy Chic” (make sure to try the Texas Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Tamales). The owner, Grady Spears, is a great guy, and it’s close to our house. Based on my positive experiences I decided to give Grady’s props on Yelp, which is one of the early-adopters of the new Facebook API. 

 

So I clicked on the “Like” button on Grady’s Yelp page (also notice that FB tells me how many of my friends are on Yelp at the bottom of the page).  

That click generated the following message on my profile and News Feed.

This may not seem like much. What is one line of small, Arial font going to do for Grady’s or my friends? A whole heck of a lot. Think about the massive amount of data Facebook is now going to collect. Plus, this data is actual preferences/suggestions generated by humans – and not just any humans, but humans in your social circle. This data is infinitely more powerful than any computer algorithm based on back-links and web-spiders (I’m talking to you Google). So does this reduce the  need to search for information on a traditional search engine like Google? Yes, and it is already happening today.

Just this morning a buddy from Louisiana posted on his wall that he was looking for a good, affordable, lawn service in town for a small-sized yard. Within the hour he had several recommendations from his friends (including URLs and phone numbers of the recommended providers). Compare that to Google, where he would need to sift through numerous results – with little context and zero trust.  Now imagine a future where Facebook develops their own search tool that allows a more automated way for this same person to locate this information, with the benefit of recommendations from friends, but without having to explicitly ask for it. That’s super powerful and (pardon the cliché’) a game-changer.

As an advertiser, I’m also excited about the potential targeting abilities that this data will provide.  Plus, since the Open Graph data is opt-in (truly every click is the consumer making the decision to share the data) Facebook should avoid the backlash that came with the failed launch of the Beacon platform.

So now that Facebook has this new data “coming in”, there is less reason for any Facebook user to “go out” or leave the comfort of Facebook. So why would sites like Yelp integrate with Facebook and potential reduce their site traffic? Yelp is banking on the fact that the relationship will result in return traffic to Yelp. I think this will be true in the short-term, but as Facebook get’s smarter with the data, I think there becomes less need to ever leave Facebook.

So let’s come back to my 5 year old. How will he find information in a few years? My guess is he’ll grab his iPad and open Facebook. It’s that simple.

One response to “The Future of Facebook . . . watch out Google

  1. Great article and strong points made here Ben. I completely agree with this foresight and would even take it a couple of steps further…

    In 2 years your child will be picking up his iPad and connecting with facebook to get his information but in 5 years he will be walking down the street with you saying “I like this Dad” (maybe looking at a new bike) and some device that is on him as part of his daily routine will be understanding what he said, where he is, what it was that he liked, who else liked it, where to get it, reviews, pics and videos sent to you about it and the fact that this is what he “likes”, etc., etc..

    I know, I might be thinking a little Matrix/Star Trek’ish, but this is going to be a reality sooner than later.

    Now we need to see if FB can execute the way that we all think that they can/will/should or if Google, MSFT or a new comer will step up and present an even more compelling offer to the consumers of the world that is even easier and more beneficial way to get what we want in the quickest, unobtrusive, most comfortable and relevant way…

    Best,
    Geoff
    @geoffshenk

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