No search partnership between Facebook and Yahoo

Steven Loeb · November 19, 2012 · Short URL:

Collaboration still possible, with Mayer and Sandberg said to be negotiating

Facebook will be getting into search at some point. That much, I believe, is pretty clear at this point. How they do it, or if it is a good idea, remain to be seen. So, with the lack of specifics, of course, speculation will abound about different partnerships that might come along that could push the process along.

The latest rumor came from the UK publication The Telegraph on Sunday, where it was reported that Facebook and Yahoo were going to partner up for some type of deal that would involve Facebook benefiting from Yahoo's experience with search,

According to that report, Facebook would use the collaboration to boost its prospects for getting into search, while Yahoo would use Facebook to recuit top-tier programmers. 

The alliance, which would “reorder the hierarchy of the world’s biggest technology companies,” (not that the Telegraph was getting hyperbolic about it or anything), was being brokered by none other than Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Facebook CFO Sheryl Sandberg.

While this news would be pretty incredible, sadly, it seems that it was not entirely true.

Facebook has issued the following statement to Bloomberg: “People expect a better search experience on Facebook. We are working on improvements to better meet those expectations but are not in talks to enter into a new search partnership.”

Take a good look at the above statement. There is no denial that Facebook and Yahoo are talking, which means that it is possible the Telegraph’s entire story was not entirely wrong. It is still possible that Mayer and Sandberg are negotiating some type of deal between the two companies. It just won’t involve search.

And, honestly, that makes sense that it would for something other than search. I would not expect Facebook to launch what seems to be its next phase of development piggybacking on the success of another company.

The noise about a Facebook search engine started in September, when Mark Zuckergberg gave his first interview since Facebook’s IPO.

When asked if Facebook ever thinks about search, Zuckerberg 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.”

He said that search is evolving from trying to predict what might be revelant, to answering specific questions.

"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.
Based on that answer, Zuckerberg seems to have a very specific type of search engine in mind, and not one that would give typical Google or Yahoo results. He wants Facebook to be able to give answers that uses specific information about people who use the site. And considering that there are now over one billion of them, there should be plenty of information to mine from.

Honestly, I’m more interested to see what else Facebook and Yahoo might be able to cook up together. That news should be fascinating to see, given that Yahoo was suing Facebook earlier this year for 10 patent infringements, before the two companies came together on an agreement that expanded their ongoing partnership, including a joint advertising sales effort, as well as cross-licensing of some key patents between the pair.

Facebook and Yahoo did work together on ads in the early days of Facebook but sales partnership status has been lacking in recent years.

Yahoo has, however, always maintained some level of relationship with Facebook since the company uses contact communication so that users can import their Yahoo Mail address book for easy additions of friends.

Facebook could not be reached for comment.

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