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Q&A: Google pushes Social Search despite Facebook gap

Juan Carlos Perez | March 4, 2011
Once viewed as tools for posting trivial content on the Web, social networking and social media sites have evolved as bona fide sources of information publishing and sharing, forcing search engine providers to increasingly factor them into their services. Google isn't an exception: it launched a for

Google Social Search only indexes content that's publicly available on the Web. What can Social Search access and index and surface from Facebook currently? Because much of the content on Facebook isn't publicly crawlable and isn't publicly available on the Web, there's generally not content from there in Social Search. We do include Facebook profiles that are public and links from Google Profiles to Facebook profiles.

So if I have indicated on my regular Facebook profile that I like this sports team and that restaurant, can Social Search see that and factor it into my search relevance? No, because those pages aren't publicly accessible nor crawlable on the Web.

It's my understanding that some smaller, niche search companies provide Facebook search, letting Facebook users search through their Wall postings and Facebook content in general. Why doesn't Google do this too? Google fundamentally is about indexing and accessing the world's public information and making it easier for users to find it depending on what queries they're doing. So that's the key for us: it has to be publicly accessible and crawlable.

But is there an opportunity for search engines like Google to help people search through private data in their social media and social networking accounts that has accumulated over the years and in many cases is hard to find and search through? I understand what you're saying, but we don't talk about future products or unannounced stuff at Google.

Where do you see Google Social Search in a year or 18 months from now that would make it even better? There are tens of thousands of sites out there that have publicly crawlable information on hundreds or thousands of different categories of topics and all of those we hope to bring into Social Search. We're even getting approached daily by different people who have public content saying: "Hey, can you include our stuff in Social Search?" It's great for recommendations and a variety of things.

Do you have to manually configure the Social Search engine or crawler to work with a specific social media and social networking service, so that it can look for stuff in specific sites? Or is it a more automated process? In the initial phases, there is some wrap up work where we're making sure the formats for various sites maps into our Social Search engine. That's why initially we have [a handful of social media sites] working. Over time, the process will become more broad like you're indicating. But to match formats now, we're taking it a few steps at a time.


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