Monday, June 6, 2011

Why Does the Facebook Search Feature work so poorly?

Facebook has the worst search engine and e-mail interface known to man.  This is the new internet portal?

One thing I have always found odd about Facebook is its search feature.  You type in the name of Edna McGillicutty, who you know is on Facebook.  And what do you get?  Edna Mode, Sam McGillicutty, and 5 other names that aren't even close, and then a "click here to see all 498 hits one page of 10 at a time."

Why is this?  By Accident?  Or Design?  I am inclined to think the latter.  They don't want you searching too much or finding too much.  They would rather you "networked" by "Friending" people through your e-mail connections and then friending friends, etc.  And I guess they would rather than you click on links for paid advertisers than have you spelunk the data base.

In other words, they want control.  And as I have said before, Facebook is the Television of the Internet - they want to control "what's on" and give you the illusion of free choice, when in reality you are playing a piano with four keys.  You come up with what you think is a new combination of those four keys, and you kid yourself you are being creative.  But your Facebook page looks like everyone Else's, and perhaps the crappy search feature is a way of preventing you from figuring that out.

Their "message" portal is awkward and clumsy and certainly no threat to gmail, hotmail, or yahoo.  It is non-intuitively laid out and difficult to figure out how to create a message to a person and send it.  And forget 20 MB of attachments, that ain't happening.

Again, I think the messaging feature is intentionally crippled, as they would prefer you post on your "wall" where they can harvest demographic data and use your postings to gather data on your friends - as they post replies, etc.

Whatever the reason, the messaging feature on Facebook isn't e-mail, but something else entirely.

Pundits are positing that Facebook is going to be the next big thing - the next AOL (and you know how that worked out) and would become everyone's default page.  But can it or will it?  I can't see using a "Social Network" to access work-related e-mails, search the internet, buy real products online (as opposed to the CRAP they sell on Facebook like diet plans and overpriced insurance) or do real work and research.

But for many people, the Internet is not any of that.  It is all about sending e-mails to their grandchildren, or forwarding Obama Conspiracy Theory e-mails to 500 of their closest friends.  And for those folks, Facebook is actually an improvement over e-mail - you simply post to your "wall" and you instantly communicate with everyone.  And if you want to snoop into your grandchildren's lives, it is all there for you to see.  If you are lonely, Facebook is a Godsend.

But outside of that group of social users, I don't see Facebook as morphing into a professional platform.  And even professional social networking groups (like Linked-In or whatever group I was asked to join last week) are not really good platforms for business and work.

The people who write newspaper articles about technology fail to get this.  Those are the types of folks who Facebook and Tweet (The Press is all atwitter about Twitter, because they all use it. Outside of a few million users, though, Twitter is not even as widespread as Facebook).

I think we may be headed for another "dot com" bubble - with companies like Facebook leading the way.  People want to believe this is the "next big thing" and have put fantastic valuations on the company.  These are the same people who put fantastic valuations on mortgage-backed securities about 10 years ago.

Will we ever learn?

UPDATE:  The only thing worse than Facebook failing is Facebook being successful.