Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Someone please explain this: Why does Facebook search continue to blow with the gale force of a thousand Katrinas?
How is it even possible that the biggest social network — and second biggest site of any kind — in the world still doesn't have any kind of reasonably useful, or at least minimally non-crappy, search function?
My airing of grievances!
- You can find new friends easily, but it's nearly impossible to find/sort/filter your *existing* ones. (Even finding the tools for social sorting is challenging — why do you have to go to Edit Friends to search through your friends? Totally nonintuitive.)
- You can search for posts, but not comments. And the post results you get are sorted by time, not relevance. And there's no way of organizing the results, or even seeing more than a handful without paging through many painstaking "More Results" clicks.
- There's no "Advanced" search allowing you to search just certain kinds of information (friends only, all site, content only, search by date, etc., or to use Boolean search and/or regular expressions)
- There's no way of searching questions, images, or requests, and there's no way of searching just within your news feed.
- You can't save searches, you can't search within searches, you can't do tabbed searches, you can't create feeds out of searches (which would make "News Feed" MUCH more valuable)
But hell, I could add to this list all day.
The bottom line is that Facebook is where we voluntarily put a ton of useful information, most of which is not visible and thus not searchable by the tool we use to sort the rest of our global information — Google. Which means that uploading content to Facebook is to consign it to a kind of grey hole — not entirely inaccessible, but not much easier to extract it back from than, say, trying to find lost documents by rooting through a dumpster.
Assuming that Google was too much of a potential competitor to strike a deal with, why not at least integrate technology from Microsoft, whose Bing "decision engine" is at least running a distant second to the search giant?
Given that Microsoft bought a chunk of Facebook in 2007 and signed a deal to sell Facebook's banner ads, why didn't the two companies make some kind of technology deal to help Facebook internal search not suck then? Search results would generate even more opportunities for ad placement — a win-win, it would seem, for the two companies, and add a win for us, the beleaguered users.
Oddly, Facebook seems much more concerned with external search (its so-called "Open Graph Search" initiative) than internal. Frankly, I have zero interest in using Facebook to find things that are not on Facebook. I do have a big, vested interest in using Facebook to find things that ARE on Facebook — since there is essentially no other way to find those things. Given how big FB is and how much dark matter there is in there, this should absolutely be a top priority for Zuck and Co. — it's embarrassing and broken at this point, and I'm being extremely polite.