Facebook: Searching to become the next Google
Last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced his ambition to turn Facebook into a competitor to search engines like Google and Bing.
Zuckerberg highlighted the work which has been done towards improving the social network’s ability to display relevant content, revealing his plan to encourage users to stay on Facebook for longer, and utilize the site beyond its social media function.
Obviously, each online platform has its own strengths and limitations when it comes to search. Hence, you’ll get significantly diverse results whether you’re using Google, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc.
As a test, we’ve decided to put each platform through its search paces by subjecting them to 5 different types of searches and rating their performance..
Location search: ‘French Embassy London address’
As far as location searches are concerned, Google definitely beats the competition. The top of the results page displays the address of the French Embassy in London, as well as that of the French Consulate, which users tend to get mixed up. The official site appears as the top result, along with a map highlighting how to get there on the side.
By contrast, Youtube results show random news and amateur videos, which fail to answer the query altogether. As far as the social networks are concerned, Twitter also fails to provide a useful answer to the search, as the French Embassy doesn’t have a Twitter account (yet), and the tweets about it are mainly news content related.
Facebook gives more useful information, as it has a page dedicated to the embassy, which like Google clearly displays the address and a direction map.
Verdict: Google 10/10, Facebook: 8/10, Twitter 2/10, Youtube 0/10
Video search: ‘Beyonce latest video’
As you’d expect, Youtube gets this one spot on and comes out on top.
Search results for this query display Beyonce’s official music videos starting with the most recent, ‘Partition’. Google almost gets it right, as search results do display Beyonce’s official Youtube channel and a link to ‘Partition’, but the top of the page is dedicated to gossip news articles about her marriage.
As far as Twitter is concerned, much of the search results are dedicated to Beyonce’s personal life rather than music, while the results in the ‘video’ category include lots of random results, including many covers by fans.
On top of that, since Beyonce probably has the most followed inactive Twitter account out there (13.5 million followers, still no tweet in 2014), the official page is also unhelpful. Having said that, due to Twitter’s instantaneous nature, there’s no doubt it’s much more helpful to search latest videos as they come out rather than in hindsight. Hence, since Beyonce’s latest album came out at the end of last year, results aren’t particularly helpful.
Facebook performs poorly (we’re still looking for the video on official and fan pages..)
Verdict: Youtube 10/10, Google 9/10, Twitter 4/10, Facebook 0/10
Factual search: ‘Steve Jobs birthday’
Looking at a straight factual search, all platforms help answer the query. Google’s top result provides a straight answer in big bold letters, while Facebook has a page dedicated to Steve Jobs with biographic information, and even a few ‘Happy Birthday’ pages to celebrate Apple’s founder.
Similarly, Youtube has plenty of search results related to the question, including birthday song videos by Jobs fans. Twitter is full of messages which answer the query as well.
Verdict: full marks for all!
Product search: ‘Price of a Seat Ibiza car’
For this search, Google’s top results come from the official Seat site, which allows users to create their own car and get a quote for it. The other results in the top 5 give a good idea of how much an Ibiza cost, both new and used, which is good.
Youtube is also a useful platform for this search, displaying the official Seat adverts for the Ibiza, which state prices. While this also gives a good visual impression of what the car is like, it provides little insight as to how much the car would cost used.
As far as Twitter and Facebook are concerned, there are several pages/accounts dedicated to the Seat Ibiza, in different languages (official and non-official groups).
While some of the pages do link to official Seat sites (particularly on Facebook) on which prices can be found, getting a quote through these two channels is definitely a bit of a struggle. Hence answering the query via social channels is definitely less straight forward than using Google or Youtube.
Verdict: Google: 10/10, Youtube 8/10, Facebook 4/10, Twitter 2/10
Opinion search: ‘the best hotel to stay in when visiting New York’
Finally, looking at an opinionated query, the best search engine is again..the search engine! Google results display many useful websites with hotel ratings, such as tripadvisor.co.uk. While Facebook doesn’t answer a long tail query properly for this search, a simple search for New York based hotels provides a list of places, some of which have been star rated, which is also helpful.
Youtube searches display some nice videos of hotels, which give a better idea of standards than pictures. However, there is no rating system in place, so the query is not really answered properly. Meanwhile, Twitter results are messy and random, although some tweets provide feedback on particular places.
Verdict: Google: 10/10, Facebook 7/10, Youtube 5/10, Twitter 3/10
Ultimately, while all those platforms are great in their own way, it’s clear that non specialist platforms still have a long way to come if they want to match Google’s expertise as a search engine.
While Youtube can obviously be helpful with queries which can be answered by video content, and Facebook’s page system for places and people often provide a lot of useful information, they are still far from offering Google’s depth and breadth.
Although Twitter is a great platform for current/live news, it is not designed to present users with old information, which means it cannot be used in the same way a search engine is..