What’s white and blue and hugs you so tight it won’t ever let go? That’s Facebook, arguably the world’s most addictive online destination, and they’re making it even harder for users to leave.
Facebook announced that it will no longer be integrating Bing into its search function. In other words, you can now search Facebook only for content located elsewhere on Facebook.
The announcement is a big change. Facebook has included web results since 2008, always served by Microsoft (and by Bing since 2010). Facebook users are used to the fact that, when searching on the site, they can find results both from users accounts and pages and from the worldwide web at large.
That’s changed. Whereas before, a search for “sports cars” would include web results like local dealerships or a Wikipedia entry, now it will only include Facebook pages the site deems relevant to the search string and user.
On the surface this seems like a tough break for Bing. Facebook is the world’s most visited site, and the number of searches that take place within Facebook each day likely number in the millions. For Bing, each search is a chance for users to see ads, which translates to revenue. But it seems unlikely that Bing will lose a lot of money on the deal, for a few reasons:
- Most users who use Facebook’s internal search bar are likely looking for content within Facebook in the first place. People understand the difference between Facebook pages and outside web pages, and are unlikely to use Facebook as a de facto search engine. In other words, Bing’s share of searches was likely low to begin with.
- Users can still search outside of Facebook, likely by just using the URL bar at the top of their browser. As always, being a browser’s default search engine is a much more profitable position than being the default on any one website—even Facebook.
There’s no doubt that Bing will lose searches due to the change, but it will recoup many of them, particularly from users happen to be surfing with Internet Explorer. They’ll just use their search bar to run their search instead.
The bigger losers here are the Facebook users themselves. Facebook is already strongly oriented to keep users on-site rather than clicking away, and increasingly builds that goal into functionality. Videos, for example, now play automatically when you reach them in your feed, increasing the likelihood that you’ll get hooked while decreasing the chance that you’ll try to open them in Youtube instead. Facebook seems to have no qualms locking users in.
Facebook also rolled the change together with other, long awaited features—perhaps to make it more palatable. For example, users have long demanded the ability to search within posts (making it easier, for example, to find old favorites), a feature that once existed but was removed years ago. Facebook has restored that feature, at least for users with US English as their language.
Will the disappearance of Bing prompt any outcry? Our guess is not much; as stated above, few people use Facebook as a search engine and it’s easy to use the browser search bar instead. But it does represent another step toward an increasingly clingy user experience.
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