Facebook is Testing a New In-App Search Function

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Facebook is Testing a New In-App Search Function. Should Google be Worried?

Have you ever wished for a simple and efficient way to search for online content that you can easily share on your Facebook mobile app. As the situation currently stands, sharing a digital photo taken with a smartphone and adding a message and some emoji is pretty easy, but the same cannot be said about adding context from the World Wide Web. On most mobile devices, sharing a link on Facebook is anything but easy.

Depending on the smartphone, searching for a link to share on Facebook may require a clumsy switching of apps as well as intricate taps and swipes for the purpose of copying and pasting. A similar situation occurs in just about any mobile social media app, and this is something that Facebook is committed to improve upon.

In early May 2015, Facebook started testing an interesting new feature on its mobile app, A small subset of users in the United States have already seen a new option labeled “Add a Link” in the small field that is dedicated to creating a mobile Facebook update. By tapping this option, users can enter a search query, which will return a number of links.

The query results listed as a response to Add a Link are sorted according to an algorithm that tries to match the interests of users and their Facebook friends. Since this is taking place within a social network, the results that have been recently published are highlighted according to their popularity. This new feature, which is being referred to as an “in-app search engine,” is gaining attention among social media and Internet analysts, who believe that major search engine providers such as Google and Microsoft Bing should be paying close attention to this development.

How This New Feature Could Change the Future

With every new feature rolled out by Facebook, we have come to expect that the ultimate goal of the social networking giant is to keep users inside Facebook for as long as possible. This is precisely what this in-app search engine seeks to accomplish by eliminating having to switch between apps; besides, the ranking of query results by their popularity on Facebook is a neat touch.

In the past, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has explained that search is one of the pillars of his leading online social network. By encouraging users to share content over the last few years, Facebook has been amassing a prodigious amount of curated content, which users can now search for and share with their friends. This is a major advantage to the Facebook mobile experience.

It is important to remember that Facebook is working with major publishers such as BuzzFeed and The New York Times on a project to host some of their content fully and exclusively on the social network. Once again, this project reduces the need of leaving Facebook for the purpose of checking out interesting content. Should this hosted content project be incorporated into the in-app search feature, mobile Facebook users will have even more of an incentive to stay within the app.

Business analysts are already wondering how much of a hit Google and other search engine providers will take once in-app search makes it past the trial phase. At this time, Facebook has indexed and looked at more than a trillion links, which are being also being ranked and offered as query results. While this may sound like a lot of content available to Facebook users, it pales in comparison to what Google can offer. Still, by saving users more than eight seconds on sharing adequate context to their social media updates, Facebook is creating great value.

In the end, any major effort by Facebook to improve its own search engine capability will be welcomed by users, who will in turn make the network more attractive to advertisers, thereby boosting Facebook’s bottom line.

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