The success of Facebook’s new search function depends entirely on how well users respond to the perceived benefits of the feature vs. its potential creep factor. When Facebook first announced the new search tool, people were quick to point out its potential to unearth old and embarrassing posts, and make Facebook stalking that much easier. From a Facebook user’s point of view, will the usefulness of this feature really outweigh its potential for embarrassment?

Time.com reported the roll out of this new feature as ‘Facebook taking a thinly veiled shot at Google’, which will effectively mean the death of GooglePlus. While this may be likely, it is questionable whether Facebook’s new feature will prove to be useful enough to truly detract people away from using good old reliable Google. According to Facebook’s Vice President of Search Tom Stocky:

“You’ve told us the most important thing is being able to find posts you’ve seen before, and now you can. With a quick search, you can get back to a fun video from your graduation, a news article you’ve been meaning to read, or photos from your friend’s wedding last summer.”

The issue with this is that it’s already fairly straightforward to search for those things, and it remains to be seen whether it will take less time for Facebook’s search algorithm to accurately predict a search intention rather than the user simply clicking on the multitude of Facebook navigation tools that already exist.

It is also quite possible Facebook’s new search feature will end up mimicking Twitter’s hashtag feature- a tool for people to jump onto discussions based on topics and trending news with Twitter users around the world. It’s fairly obvious now that Facebook’s own version of the hashtag functionality proved largely to be pointless. Indeed the reason Twitter’s search function works so well is because:

  1. Tweeters are actively looking to voice their opinion on trending topics.
  2. The search function is mostly used for links to ‘newsworthy content’ from users perceived to be trustworthy and authoritative on those topics.

The difference with Facebook’s search is that these discussions would be limited to your Facebook friends and the Pages you’ve liked- and people are more likely to trust content from their peers over company pages, which is what Facebook is banking on for the success of this feature. While it is true that people view content from their personal networks as more trustworthy, it remains that social media is still only one out of several research tools used by consumers before they commit to purchase. People will still be researching forums, reviews, etc on brands and products, and Google will likely remain the preferred platform for this function. It will be worth keeping an eye out on what kind of impact Facebook search makes next year, and indeed if it is capable of encroaching on Google’s territory in 2015.