Facebook with hundreds of millions of members is potentially the most diverse database of information on the planet today. The company has the unique opportunity to mine petabytes of completely unique user data and information. That data contains:
- User preferences/likes for arts & entertainment, beliefs, people, things products, the list is very long
- Demographics (with different degrees of truth)
- “News events” posted at a time and place
- Population information (what group of people are doing what at a given time)
- Factoids (things people believe/opinions (true or not) and have written on their page)
- Digital assets
- Photos (Facebook has the largest repository of on-line photos. Most of digital photos contain what is known as EXIF data. Cameras embed information about the camera and the way the photo was taken. Many also contain geo-tagging information which tells you where and when the photo was taken)
The good and bad news is that this is all unstructured content stored in FB’s servers. A repository of this size begs to be a different type of branded search engine, privacy settings notwithstanding. Facebook could provide invaluable market research and real-time forecast of buying trends. This search would be “interests” oriented where customers could buy historical and real-time streams of preferences, news and other content. This is the New Normal of the Big Data play. Facebook needs make sense of the vast amounts information and quickly convert it into something digestible.
A big part of the value is in the real-time nature of the data. This would mean Facebook has the back end servers to convert posts and activities into useable data on the fly. The talent to manage and curate the information must be there as well. Without a solid curation management plan and talent the value of the search engine is severely limited.
Of course nothing prevents them from developing their own Internet search engine or acquiring one. Google and Bing are unlikely targets but Yahoo has fallen on hard times of late. The type of curated search provided by its servers and BOSS service are complimentary to what the Facebook brand would attract. There are many secondary products provided by Yahoo including a mature web and mobile ad presence that could be leveraged. Yahoo has the brand recognition in this space along with a mature online presence. It seems like a natural fit, from a technology and market offering perspective. Culture and management style will be another matter.
What are your thoughts?