Will Facebook someday launch their own search engine that enables you to search the Web? That question surfaces every so often, without any real definitive answers. It’s possible that they might someday, especially since they’ve been hiring a number of people with job experience from some of the major search engines.
The last few times I recall seeing the possibility of a Facebook search engine raised was when a couple of different Facebook patents originally acquired from Friendster were granted, and each described an aspect of how a search engine might use connections on a social network to influence results seen on a search of the Web. (For example, see this post: Facebook Patents “Curated Search” To Attack Google.) A different question, and one that is just as interesting is how the search on Facebook itself works. A patent application published at the USTPO today gives us some ideas of how it may work.
I have to confess that I’ve rarely searched at Facebook, and I don’t think that I’ve ever searched using anything other than the search box at the tops of pages. There is a Facebook search interface, as seen in the image above, that allows you to choose between the following to search for:
Sir Bedevere: What makes you think she’s a witch?
Peasant 3: Well, she turned me into a newt!
Sir Bedevere: A newt?
Peasant 3: [meekly after a long pause] … I got better.
Crowd: [shouts] Burn her anyway!
From the color-me-unsurprised department comes news from Time Magazine’s Techland that 92% of Newt Gingrich’s Twitter Followers Aren’t Real. I’m not making a statement with this post about the politician’s politics, or his character, or even an indictment of social media itself. Mainly because I think far too many people are guilty of the same thing – trying to use inflated social media stats to prove their social worth.
I discussed this with keynote marketing speaker David Dalka this morning, and he shared his thoughts in Twitter Gate – Buy More Twitter Followers Free Instantly – Business Marketing Strategy Implications?, digging into some of the business issues involved surrounding social media and pursuing followers on social networks:
It makes one wonder where all these non-real followers are coming from and more than a few CEOs are likely reading this article and asking the question, “Is all this investment in social media justified and an activity that will grow my business and improve the bottom line or are there wiser investments to be made?”
I’ve been doing research on Google’s social Q&A sites codenamed Confucius which are in more than 68 countries and multiple languages, but little known in the US. What I’ve seen includes some tantalizing hints about Google Plus, a description of how content submitted to Google Plus might be ranked in Google Web search, and a possible advertising model for Google Plus that was detailed in a Best Paper nominee at the World Wide Web Conference in North Carolina last year.
I started looking at Confucius a week ago, when I published the post, How Google Might Rank User Generated Web Content in Google & and Other Social Networks. My post describes a ranking signal for user generated content in Web search results, derived from a social network user’s perceived authority on different subjects and the quality of their contributions in interactions on the network, These combined scores might be used as a ranking signal in web search results for the content that user creates. The patent filing was published at the World Intellectual Property Organization website rather than the US patent office website, and the authors of the patent were from Google China, including Edward Y. Chang, the head of Research at Google China, seen in the profile page below:
One of the challenges that face search engines is how to rank content found on sites that rely upon users to create that content, often referred to as User Generated Content or UGC. Towards the end of 2009, I wrote a post about a Yahoo patent that described some of the things they might consider looking at when ranking UGC, in the post How Search Engines May Rank User Generated Content.
With Google’s recent launch of Google Plus, I’m anticipating posts and comments from their new social network system to start appearing in Google Web search results sometime soon.
A Google patent application published this past May at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) describes possible signals that Google might consider in its Web search results when it displays and ranks images and videos on photo and video sharing sites, questions and answers on Q&A sites, forum posts and responses, blog posts and comments, and social network posts, status updates, and comments. It was originally filed on October 29, 2009, but looks like it could be a system that could be used with Google + without too many modifications. The patent filing hasn’t been published yet at the US Patent and Trademark Office.
A Google patent application published in early May explains why Google might start showing social answers in Google search results. The basic premise is that some types of questions are best answered by library type results, and others by a village paradigm approach to information retrieval. In a village, people disseminate knowledge socially, with information passed from person to person, and retrieving information involves finding the right person, as opposed to the right document.
Here’s how a social answer to a query might appear in Google’s search results:
Google is starting to show how social it might become with the introduction of Google + this week. I’ve signed up for an invite, and watched the demos, but I’m not going to weigh in on it until I have the chance to try it out (2011-6-30 – added: I missed my invite inadvertantly. Testing Google + now.)
Instead, let’s take a quick look at a Google Patent application that came out this week that shows another possible social tool from Google. This one allows you to start conversations with people who visit a web page, or have bookmarked the page, or contact people you already know while you’re on the page so that you can discuss it together. See a news story on a news paper site that you want to discuss with a friend, or even someone else who might be visiting that page. The process behind this patent filing enables you to do that.
Within your toolbar browser would be an instant messenging client attached to a “discuss this page” button, like in the screenshot from the patent filing below:
Need advice from an attorney on patents? Have a question about cooking Indian food? Want a document translated, or help building a widget or debugging a program?
Google tells us on one of their corporate information pages that: “Google’s mission is to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful. ” But some information isn’t written down on paper, and some skills can only be taught from one person to another.
Imagine if Google set up a site that allows people to search for others with expertise and know-how in certain areas of interest, send requests for help, pay by credit points (virtual money allowing for countertrades or bartering) or actual money, and rate the providers skills or know-how in those specific interest areas? This site might enable people involved in the transactions to remain anonymous unless they want to disclose their actual identities.
A patent application published this week at the USTPO from Google describes how the search engine might set a system like that to “broker” know-how. One of the inventors listed on the patent is Cyrill Osterwalder, who appears from his LinkedIn profile and a January, 2011, presentation on Google and Privacy (pdf) to be Google’s Privacy Engineering Lead.
A patent application was published at the USPTO this morning that describes an interesting new application from Apple, enabling people to find others with common interests or common experiences or both, based upon location. The patent is fairly detailed, and I’ve somewhat brushed the surface with my description below. If you’re interested in location based services and social networking, it’s definitely worth a read.
It also has some of the more interesting images that I’ve seen so far in a patent filing this year (The person shown in them looks a little like a comic book villian), and they do a very good job of displaying an example of how this system could be used.