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Carving Up the Social Graph Turkey

After much deal-making and jockeying in the previous quarters, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google at last revealed their near-term Social Search plays at today's Web 2.0 Summit.
  • Facebook announced the impending launch of its own social search platform + a deal with minority investor Microsoft that brings FB status updates to Bing.  
  • Google announced a new Social Search capability that pulls friend-relevant data from most core social networks with the notable exception of Facebook + a deal with Twitter to bring real-time tweets to the search engine.
  • Microsoft announced the Facebook/Bing deal + a Twitter deal virtually identical to Google's.
  • Twitter stuck to its open-expansion-uber-alles strategy, announcing it's willing to play nice with anyone who will help it fend off Facebook from its niche.
The moves clearly demonstrate the increasing value of structured social data (aka the emerging social graph) to search services and should silence skeptics that have complained about the valuation of large social networks.

They also demonstrate one form of massive disruption to search markets: an all-out race to subsume new pools of structured data.  It's obvious that Facebook and Microsoft, who recently unveiled a deal to subsume computational search engine Wolfram Alpha, see this as one of the more effective strategies for countering Google's seach dominance. 

Prediction: Once these big deals are wrapped up I expect that we'll witness a slew of search-access deals with companies that control pools of unique search-relevant data  (e.g. IBM,Technorati, Second Life, stallite mapping services), perhaps eventually resulting in granular opt-in controls (similar to Google AdSense) for smaller niche federations looking to monetize their proprietary data.

Just think of search engines as big brains competing to integrate modules of novel, search-relevant structured data.

Viewing search from this perspective brings much necessary context to Google's long-term search growth plan, explaining why seemingly disparate initiatives like Maps, Earth, Google 411, books, etc are actually part of a cohesive strategy that will consistently add value to the company's core search offering over the coming years.  It is this deliberately planned integration that Google appears poised to retain its dominance.  Thus, minus an Earth-shattering search AI breakthrough, direct competitors like Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook must acquire or grow their own pools of unique, relevant and integratable structured data if they are to keep pace.

At the same time, expect new entrants in regions such as Russia, China and India to either license their data to the hungry big boys or focus on the expansion of their native search efforts.  All that's required is some magic translation pixie dust.  Oh snap, Google appears to have that technology marketed cornered.

Conclusion: The social graph turkey is but a single, albeit core, item on the long table of search.  Expect many more scrumptious, exotic foods to emerge from the data kitchen.  Google does and has been adjusting its digestive technologies accordingly.

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