Facebook Tests Mobile Search Engine, Takes Aim at Google
Watch out Google, Facebook is moving into your territory. While Google was largely unsuccessful at toppling Facebook with Google Plus, the social media giant could eventually make a dent in the search engine behemoth’s market share with an in-app search engine.
News reports confirm that Facebook has launched in-app search engine testing. The search engine lets you post links in a status update without having to rely on Google. If you are part of the U.S. test bed, you’ll see an option to “add a link” in the area where you currently click to add a location or photos to your post.
Here’s how it works: Type in a search keyword or key phrase. That will bring up a drop-down list of links that gives you a sneak peak of what is on the Web site. You can then choose to share or not share the link in your status.
User Convenience in Mind
Facebook is essentially saving users a step. Instead of having to conduct a separate search on Google, Bing, Yahoo or some other search engine -- or visit a Web site and grab the URL to post on your status -- the in-app search lets you accomplish the same end goal without leaving the app. That, of course, benefits Facebook’s mobile page views and stickiness.
We caught up with Greg Sterling, Vice President of Strategy and Insight at the Local Search Association, to get his reaction to the news. He told us this move was made with user convenience in mind.
“This is in the near term about making it easier for people to share links within Facebook's mobile app, which is currently a challenging process for many people,” Sterling said. “This is not a new, general index of Web content that will directly threaten the mobile use case for Google.”
That may be so, but Sterling offered a “however.” As Facebook continues to add content and search capabilities -- especially in mobile -- he said it does potentially impact Google over time.
“Facebook is trying to add more utility and content to its app,” Sterling said. “One example is hosted news content. Google is trying to retain and more deeply engage mobile users.”
Indeed, Google has plenty of mobile search activity. Jack Dischler, Vice President of Product Management at AdWords, last week announced that Google has witnessed an uptick in mobile searches. Specifically, more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan.
This is not a Google-only trend. An April comScore report revealed that the number of mobile-only adult Internet users exceeded the number of desktop-only Internet users for the first time ever in March.
“While the share of mobile-only users has climbed over the past year to 11.3 percent, the desktop-only population has drastically declined to just 10.6 percent,” said comScore senior marketing insights analyst Adam Lella. “Of course these numbers also tell us that the vast majority of the digital population (78 percent) is multi-platform and goes online using both desktop and mobile platforms.”