I don’t use Facebook much anymore. It’s become polluted with spam and annoying social games, not really my cup of tea.
Even so, as far as I know, Facebook is the de facto way to connect with people you’ve lost touch with over the years. While attempting to do this for a few people from the days of wayback whom I assumed *must* have made it onto Facebook by now, I came to a realization:
Facebook fails at people search, but it really should rock.
Try searching for a name that’s relatively common, i.e. not as common as Frank Jones, but more common than say, Jake Kuramoto. You’ll get a dump of names, probably more than 200 and less than 5,000. Not a very easy list to scan for that long-lost pal, and without a picture, you have no idea if you know the person or not.
Facebook knows a lot about me from my profile, so why aren’t they applying that demographic information to my search?
Based on my age or the fact that I graduated from college in the 90s, the results should be weighted by age, i.e. I’m more likely to be looking for Frank Joneses who are close to my age than for those who haven’t graduated from high school.
Sure, I know Facebook search pushes some results higher, so maybe their algorithm is smarter than I think. Still, I’ll bet it could be a lot better if they mined user data and applied it to ranking results.
Facebook’s aspirations go way beyond just owning social. Since before the service became ubiquitous, they’ve been trying to become an internet within the Internet.
Imagine how much better Bing’s results within Facebook would be if you applied a social layer to them?
Yeah, this would definitely cause an uproar if they were forced to show the details of the algorithm, but since everyone agrees to the terms of service and the result is better search, how many users would care?
This is much different than pushing people to make updates public, since the data and algorithm would presumably all reside only on Facebook’s servers and would be subject to the user’s privacy settings.
It’s weird to me that Facebook is pushing people toward making their data public, when they could keep data private and make real headway against Google.
Most people would appreciate the improved ability to find people, and they might switch over to searching the web with Facebook, finding better results from the addition of a personal dimension.
Social search is the future, but it shouldn’t be public. That violates an implicit contract people have with social networking providers.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think Facebook could produce really good results based on the social data they have collected. This might not reconvert me to a Facebook junkie, but then again, it might.
What do you think? Find the comments.