Ever wondered the significance of the Like button? It's Facebook's portal that will take it into Google territory. The social media giant, half a billion users strong, has just announced the arrival of its Open Graph search feature, which will allow Web sites that use the platform to be added to Facebook search. In short, Facebook can start searching the Web at will, rather than merely its own site. Social semantic search, here we come.
The difference between Google and Facebook is that Facebook is making Web sites come to it, via its Open Graph platform, which it rolled out at f8 earlier this year. Softpedia explains Facebook's advantage over Google very well indeed this morning. "It doesn't need a massive and constantly updating infrastructure to index the Web, Web masters will do its work for it."
Whereas Google scours the web for keyword-based links (although its switch to a semantic version began in March 2009) Facebook is making publishers of online content use its own API to get the Facebook community to act as the site's very own Web content data source.
So how will this affect Google and, to a lesser extent, Yahoo and Bing? Probably not so much, although you might see Bing, with its superior travel search, suffering a little. The reason is this: Facebook's Open Graph Search will do wonders for the leisure industry (and Justin Beiber merchandise sites) because, if lots of people Like a hotel's website, then it'll go to the top of the Facebook search. What you won't see on the Big Blue 'Book will be the more mundane stuff, such as health clinics, and services such as mortuaries. This is where Google will clear up.
Another thing to remember is coverage. Google is universal. It really is. Although Mark Zuckerberg is expecting Facebook to hit a billion users sometime soon (China, Russia and Japan have yet to go gaga for his site) that's still only one-sixth of the world's population. (I say "only", but you get the gist of it.) And there's also a trust issue with Facebook. Its privacy furore has hit it hard, as a Zogby poll earlier this week put it way below Google on that front.
Finally, what about news on Facebook? Expect Google to remain the go-to search engine for that to, as how does one Like a story with elements of tragedy in it? Thousands of people killed in a man-made disaster won't work, but campaigns by aid organizations to help the rescue effort will work—don't forget Causes, Sean Parker's philanthropic effort for Facebook. If, as Nick O'Neill on the All Facebook blog puts it, Like baiting takes over from link baiting, we may be entering the Good News Only era.