Facebook was recently awarded a patent on “curated search,” which involves ranking search results according to a link’s popularity with a user’s social graph.As BNet points out, this could have huge implications. Plenty of people think “social search” can be the next big thing in the extremely lucrative search market, and some even think Google’s search is ripe for disruption.
So far Facebook has only dabbled in search, adding Bing-powered search results to its internal Facebook search, and giving some social data to Bing to tweak its search results. (Bing’s owner Microsoft is a Facebook investor.)
The problem is that building a good search engine is really, really hard, even for Facebook. You have to be able to crawl basically all of the web, and then build an algorithm that takes into account thousands of parameters. It’s no coincidence that Yahoo threw in the towel after 15 years and Microsoft has had only mixed success despite pouring billions after billions in search. So even by just taking its social data, Facebook couldn’t just slap together a search engine and be competitive in any way.
It does, however, have a partner with a really good search engine in Bing. It’s at least conceivable that with enough tweaking Bing and Facebook could combine in some way into serious competition for Google.