Facebook thinks it has found a way to hurt Google's search business
The new feature is part of Facebook's plan to keep internet users within its own ecosystem, stopping them from ending their mobile browsing session because of the awkward experience of finding, copying and pasting a link from Google.
Some users of Apple's iOS mobile system in the US can now click on a new "add a link" button, which allows them to search for the link they want to share from within Facebook's app. The keyword search sorts results by the likelihood of them being shared, prioritising newer or highly shared articles. Once they've picked the article they want from the results list, the user can publish the comment or status update as normal. It is not clear whether Facebook's search engine is looking for links inside Facebook or externally on the web.Facebook told TechCrunch that it had indexed over 1 trillion posts to find out which posts were being shared, and who had shared them - data that Google doesn't have access to.
The entire scheme is part of a larger ploy to keep users on Facebook. The social network has already announced plans to host articles natively on the News Feed, and split ad revenue favourably with publishers. If Facebook sells an ad, it will keep just 30% of its revenue, The Wall Street Journal reports. In order to woo publishers, the site is considering giving them 100% of revenue from ads they sell on Facebook-hosted news sites.
If it works, it will hurt Google. About 28% of all internet time is spent by users on Facebook. If Facebook search can end the need for people to look on the web for articles via Google, Facebook may steal even more of that attention.
As native advertising grows, Google's advertising business faces more challenges on mobile especially. The company lost mobile ad market share in 2014, according to eMarketer, down to 38.2% in 2014 from 46% in 2013. Facebook's ad share rose to 17.4% in 2014 from 16.4% in 2013. Google has had a boost in the first three months of 2015, as the lower rates charged for mobile advertising, which had previously worried investors, were outweighed by the number of ads sold.
By making it easy to find and recommend articles and other sites, Facebook is creating an ecosystem that - it hopes - will give users less and less reason to leave.