Facebook announced this week the rollout of its new search engine, the form for which is available on the upper right of any Facebook page. This new search allows you to search many different kinds of content. While it’s fashionable now to say that every single new search engine that comes out is “directly completing against Google,” I don’t see it — the search is too limited in time and content. I do see however that it could be useful.
One of the reasons I don’t think this search directly competes against Google is that the search engines searches 30 days’ worth of content in your friends’ pages and the pages for which you’re a fan. You can also search the updates for those people who have chosen to make their updates public. You can also of course search regular Facebook pages, groups, and applications. There are also search results for events and search results from the Web, though I found the Web results very sloooooow to load. Maybe I hit it at a bad time.
You’ll notice that this is a simple keyword search. When I don’t get an advanced search form I get twitchy, and start thinking about all the options I’m missing. Why can’t I search my friends by geographic location? Why I can’t I search for keywords by time span? (I know it’s only 30 days’ worth of data, but maybe I only want the last 24 hours. Maybe an event from the last 24 hours has really changed what keywords people are using.) There are options to filter results for each kind of result, but… I don’t know. I like advanced search forms.
I think when it comes to Facebook searching, I still like the Facebook Lexicon best. The Lexicon, available at http://www.facebook.com/lexicon/, allows you to do trend-type searching at a high level to see how keywords are being mentioned over time. Here’s a screenshot of the Lexicon comparing the appearance of the word bought and the word sold.
Note that there’s a scroll bar at the bottom of the graph that allows you to zoom in and out of the time span covered.
Facebook’s pool of data is in an interesting position; user updates (and of course things like group pages) can be (and often are) more extensive than the 140-character limit imposed by Twitter. On the other hand, the updates are not nearly as extensive as full Web pages. I think it’s going to take some experimenting to figure out the best way that this data pool would fit in the search, but I think any kind of testing I did do would definitely include Facebook’s new search AND the Lexicon.