Searching questions for social networks

Search engines like Google are failing users because they have still to tap into the full potential of users’ social networks, according to Facebook executive Ethan Beard.

Beard, the director of the Facebook Platform, was in London this week to keep developers abreast of new enhancements  to the site’s Platform applications and he told The Daily Telegraph that search would need to go social if people were going to get the kind of product recommendations that they felt they could trust.

His example of trying to buy a suitcase online gave some idea of the apparent disconnect between discovery and recommendation that search engines currently suffer from. “I tried everything and it just didn’t work. You can’t search for a piece of luggage just using search if you want the perfect one…I know I have a friend somewhere who does the same amount of travelling and knows the perfect bag for me… and that one recommendation is exactly the one that I want – but it doesn’t show up in search.”

Beard is a former director of Google’s Social Media so it’s probably unsurprising that he was coy when questioned about the idea of Facebook ever sharing social data with Google. He seemed to rule it out however on the basis that it wouldn’t make business sense. This, even as he acknowledged that benefits to users would be significant, at least from a consumer point of view.

“Friend referrals are a really powerful way to discover information and search is another way of discovering information and layering the two together seems like it’s going to be a significant improvement over keeping them apart,” Beard told the Telegraph.

Addressing this shortcoming in the social networking arms race has become something of a priority for Google and this is most clearly evidenced by the July launch of Google+. 

With 40m users, it’s still some way off Facebook’s 800m but there was some good news at least for Google+ this week. Rival social networker Mark Zuckerberg is no longer the most followed person on Google+. Figures released this week reveal that Google founder Larry Page has overtaken the Facebook founder as the most followed on his own website

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