Facebook’s Twitter envy is showing again; the site recently announced a deal with Microsoft that will see public Facebook statuses indexed by a search engine for the first time. Although users sticking with Facebook’s default privacy settings won’t be affected, the move clearly shows Facebook moving beyond its closed, walled-garden beginnings.
Twitter’s success has clearly shaped several of Facebook’s recent changes, including the move to real-time updates and the acquisition of FriendFeed, but this latest development — turning over Facebook’s walled data to a search engine — goes well beyond earlier moves.
Part of Facebook’s appeal for many is precisely its walled-garden aspect. Sharing information on Facebook is a much more private, limited experience than with public services like Twitter, where anyone, friend or otherwise can see what you post. But Facebook’s new deal with Bing, which comes close on the heals of Bing’s similar indexing plan for Twitter, will change that.
If the idea of your status messages finding their way into search engine indexes fills you with horror, there’s no need for alarm, only Facebook profiles set to “everyone” will be indexed. Since changing your privacy settings to “everyone” requires a trip to Settings -> Privacy Settings -> Profile, presumably only those that truly want their profiles public will be affected.
Facebook’s own terms of service also prevent outside applications from caching any user data, which means Bing’s indexing will likely be very ephemeral — don’t expect deep time-based searches or cached pages.
So if most users stick with the default privacy settings and Bing can’t cache the results, who does benefit from the new deal?
Earlier this year, Facebook announced “fan pages” for products and brands that wanted a presence on the site, but for whom a traditional account would not have worked. It’s precisely this segment of Facebook’s population that will likely be most excited about the new Bing search deal. Brands and celebrity users already heavily invested in a Facebook presence will see that presence now available to the world at large thanks to Bing’s indexing plan.
At the moment the Facebook integration is just an announcement, but if the end result is anything like the Twitter integration in Bing (which is already live), expect the focus to be on links and whatever the buzzwords of the moment happen to be.
How much value Facebook’s status updates will add to Bing’s search results remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, Bing finally has some data Google doesn’t. Unlike Wednesday’s Bing/Twitter deal, which was quickly mirrored by a similar announcement from Google, thus far, Facebook and Google have shown each other no love.