Facebook takes search real-time

On the heels of FriendFeed buy, Facebook makes new move to be social networking hub

Facebook Inc. this week added real-time search capabilities to its social network, another move aimed at solidifying its lead over rivals like MySpace Inc. and Twitter Inc.

Akhil Wable, an engineering manager at Facebook, wrote in a blog post late yesterday that the new technology is being rolled out to the network after a month of testing by a small group of users.

"You now will be able to search the last 30 days of your News Feed for status updates, photos, links, videos and notes being shared by your friends and the Facebook Pages of which you're a fan," said Wable. "If people have chosen to make their content available to everyone, you also will be able to search for their status updates, links and notes, regardless of whether or not you are friends. Search results will continue to include people's profiles, as well as relevant Facebook Pages, groups and applications."

The news of the search addition to the site came just hours after Facebook announced yesterday that it had agreed to buy real-time feed aggregator FriendFeed Inc. While the amount of money Facebook paid for the 12-employee company wasn't disclosed, analysts speculate that the acquisition is part of an effort by Facebook to become a social networking hub.

With real-time search capabilities added to the mix, Facebook is in an even better position to act as a hub for its users, said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group Inc. If Facebook users can see and search all of their social networking feeds -- posts, photos, tweets, etc. -- from their own pages, they will likely spend more time on the site, he added.

"All of this is coming together to make Facebook the one place where you can see and do all of your social networking stuff in one place," said Olds. "Facebook is obviously making moves to become the first, and they hope only, social networking site for their users. With their purchase of FriendFeed, they gain technology to aggregate social networking content for these users. Now, they have search so that users can find and explore all of this aggregated content. It's a good move by Facebook, as anything they can do to keep users on their pages longer will pay off in advertising revenue."

Wable noted in his blog post that to search for a particular term, like, say, dinner, users just enter the query in the search box in the upper-right corner of any page. Once they get search results, they can use the filters on the left-hand side of the page to view only posts by friends or posts by everyone.

"By being able to search more types of content that are being shared on the site, you can easily find out your friends' evening plans and recently frequented restaurants by searching for 'dinner,'" wrote Wable. "Discover which of your friends are following Michael Schumacher's comeback during the "Formula 1" season by searching for the race series, or query "economy" to see if people or your favorite news sources feel that the recession is turning around."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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