Facebook is getting rid of its Questions feature

Could a search engine be that far off?

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
October 20, 2012
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Take a look at your Facebook. At the top of the page there is a box that says, “What’s on your mind?” Now look right above that, to where says Update Status and Add Photo/Video. Did you ever notice that there is a third option called "Ask a Question?" 

Whether or not people ever used Questions is about to become irrelevant since the feature is about to be phased out for users, though it will remain for Pages and Groups.

Questions launched in July 2010, and Facebook described it as a way to get information from your friends on the social network by creating poll questions that friends would answer.

“Millions of people ask their friends questions on Facebook every day. What new music should I listen to? Where's the best sushi place in town? How do I learn to play the piano?,” Blake Ross, Director of Product at Facebook, wrote at the time.

”Today we're introducing Facebook Questions, a beta product that lets you pose questions like these to the Facebook community. With this new application, you can get a broader set of answers and learn valuable information from people knowledgeable on a range of topics.”

Is a Facebook search engine on the way?

The most obvious replacement for Questions would be a Facebook search engine, something that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke about at TC Disrupt last month.

In the interview Zuckerberg briefly outlined what his vision of a Facebook search engine would look like, and it sounds suspiciously like what Questions does. (He even used the same sushi example!)

"I think that search engines are really evolving toward a giving you a set of answers. It’s not just like, ‘type in something, show me some relevant stuff,’ its, ‘I have a specific question, answer this question for me.’ And when you think about it from that perspective, Facebook is pretty uniquely positioned to answer a lot of the questions that people have."

For example, he said, you can see what sushi restaurants your friends have gone to in New York, in the past six months and liked. Or you can find friends, or friends of friends who work at a company that a person is interested in working at, so they can contact them to find out more.

"These are queries that you could potentially do at Facebook is we built out the system that you just couldn’t do anywhere else," Zuckerberg said.

Essentially, what Zuckerberg seems to be saying is that a Facebook search engine would be almost exactly like Questions, except that instead of users having to actively participate by either answering a question, or taking part in a poll, the search engine would bring that information up automatically, based on Likes and activity.

It is still unconfirmed whether or not Facebook is actually developing a search engine right now.

In the interview, Zuckerberg said that there was a team working on search and called it, “One kind of obvious thing for us to do in the future if we got to state where we were excited about it.”

When I recently inquired into whether or not Facebook had any concrete plans for developing one, a Facebook spokesperson would only say, "As Mark mentioned, there are over 800 million searches performed on Facebook every day with most coming from the web typeahead, and the rest split out among the web results page and mobile results page. We believe there's a lot more we can do around search but have nothing new to share at this time.”

Even if Facebook won’t officially confirm it, it sure does seem like a search engine would be the next obvious step.

You can read more about my thoughts regarding a possible Facebook search engine here.

Facebook was unavailable for comment.

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