Facebook has begun surfacing widely "liked" news stories from independent media organizations in its basic search bar today, it appears. First reported by watchdog blog AllFacebook, the change is something that seems likely to be understood as a challenge to Google. It's early days for the feature, but something to watch for sure.
Search for a phrase that's appearing in the news in the main Facebook search box and you'll see off-site links to news stories. "It's an interesting extension of what they did before in terms of off-site links," Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineLand told us by phone today. "It's not clear how exactly these stories are being chosen and it clearly needs more work. It could work like Google's Social Search, displaying items shared by your friends, but this remains something to watch and see rather than 'oh the revolution is here.'"
Earlier this year, Facebook put up a blog post urging people to "Like" the pages of major news organizations, so that they would receive stories posted by those media outlets in their Facebook Newsfeeds . Yesterday the company began experimenting with a new method of subscribing to updates from high priority friends, family and other people.
Clearly when you put together 500 million people, their friend connections, their "like" affinities (on and off-site) - then there are a whole lot of permutations that can be analyzed and surfaced in various contexts. Facebook search and subscription are likely to be very interesting for some time.
This particular search feature may be of limited impact, though. Presumably the vast majority of searches that go on in that search box are for peoples' names - not topics in the news. Perhaps that will change, as Facebook tries to extend itself.