Facebook Buys $47.5M Friend; Plans to Improve Social Engine

Dennis Faas's picture

Facebook's purchase of a "social aggregation site" has prompted speculation that it may be planning to challenge Google's domination of the search market. The buyout of FriendFeed has been seen as the first step in an attempt to improve search through social networking.

FriendFeed is a site which allows users to bring together information from their accounts with around 60 websites. These include social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, plus other services which have user accounts, including YouTube, Flickr and Amazon.

As well as bringing together the user's own information from each site, FriendFeed brings across information from friends or contacts from each site. For example, it can display a list of the videos most recently watched by friends on YouTube.

$15 Million Cash Deal

Facebook has bought out the site for $47.5 million, made up of $15 million in cash and the rest in stock. However, the firm has yet to comment on what it intends to do with its new acquisition.

One theory has it that Facebook will simply operate FriendFeed in its current form, but set it up so that when somebody uses the site to post a message on a third-party service such as YouTube, the message is effectively stamped with an advertisement for Facebook. (Source: washingtonpost.com)

Another idea is that there will be a full-fledged merger with FriendFeed's technology built-in to Facebook. That may sound appealing but is unlikely as it appears the technological barriers would be too great.

Social Search Engine

The most interesting theory is that Facebook would use FriendFeed's technology to build a so-called "social search engine". The idea would be that, unlike most search engine such as Google, a Facebook search wouldn't just tell you which sites were most popular and credible in the eyes of the web as a whole; instead it would draw on the opinions and experiences of your online friends. (Source: guardian.co.uk)

For example, if you were looking for a local restaurant, the results could be tweaked to reflect comments your friends (or your "friends of friends") had made about their dining experiences on Twitter, or photos of meals out they had posted on Flickr. The idea would be to put more emphasis on the opinions of people you trust without having the need to contact them individually for every query.

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