Facebook Considers Search Partnership with Yahoo

by Matt Klassen on November 19, 2012

The default social network and the once great search and email platform forming a grand web search alliance against Google? It’s in the works, at least according to an unnamed source cited in the UK paper The Telegraph yesterday. The report states that new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg have been in talks regarding the two companies working together on a revolutionary new search engine project.

Mayer and Sandberg have a history together, interestingly enough having been former colleagues at Google, and both understand just what search can do to help a business succeed in today’s market. For her part, Mayer has been looking for ways to revive Yahoo’s fading web presence since she took the CEO job this past summer, while it’s been no secret that Facebook has been exploring search options for some time now.

This rumoured partnership comes on the heels of a patent dispute between the two companies, one that was settled shortly before Mayer assumed Yahoo’s top job, and should it come to fruition look for it to offer some serious competition to Google, perhaps completely unseating Microsoft’s own struggling Bing search project for the number two spot.

Social networking offers a unique platform for search, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated ad nauseam recently, adding that Facebook already handles approximately a billion queries a day, and that’s without the company even trying. “There is a big opportunity in search,” Zuckerberg said in September, “evolving to giving a set of answers to a specific question and Facebook is uniquely positioned to do that.” Simply put, more than Google or Microsoft, Facebook is uniquely poised to offer the sort of intuitive search results people are looking for.

In fact, Zuckerberg’s grandiose vision is to provide Facebook users a way to navigate the entire Web outside Facebook by harnessing the “trillions of connections between friend requests and all the content that’s being pushed into the system.”

“At some point, that will start to be a better map of how you navigate the Web than the traditional link structure of the Web. I think there’s an opportunity to really build something interesting there,” he added.

So how will Yahoo help bring to reality Zuckerberg’s delusions of grandeur? Neither company has responded to this query, but currently Yahoo outsources its search to Microsoft, but according to reports that deal hasn’t gone well financially for Yahoo, who may look to terminate it in the next several months.

As expected, Google has offered to replace Microsoft, but there might be legal hurdles there given Google’s near monopoly of search. So in this current state of affairs it might be the right time for Yahoo to finally rally its efforts around developing its own search project, one that centres solely around ‘the person.’

Interestingly, back in 2009 Mayer described this new search epoch in this way: “It would be a machine that could answer that question, really. It would be one that could understand speech, questions, phrases, what entities you’re talking about, concepts. It would be able to search all of the world’s information, [find] different ideas and concepts, and bring them back to you in a presentation that was really informative and coherent.”

It’s not hard to see how this vision for search could benefit from Facebook’s social network, helping both companies to carve out a piece of the lucrative search market. But its easier said than done, as while the door may be open for a Facebook-Yahoo alliance, it could take years to complete such a project…time Yahoo may not have.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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