Social Media's Smarter Web Rests On Facebook's & Google's Metadata

It's no secret that Facebook would like be the Google of the next decade, usurping the Sultan of Search's Internet preeminence that's spanned the last ten years. How it will achieve that lofty goal is yet to be determined. With Google's recent acquisition of Metaweb, the search giant is not one to let anyone steal its thunder - and a signal to Facebook that it's in it to win it - game on!

While Google has kept current with the times - striking deals with Twitter integrating real-time search, enhancing its mobile and local search capabilities while launching in excess of 200 new products over of the last few years - it's prominent search functionality has been contingent primarily on links. Facebook, on the other hand, according to Mark Zuckerberg has been more people-centric, more personalized and more semantically aware.

However, what appears to be surfacing on the digital horizon and where the final battles for domination will be fought is in the arena of 'metadata.' As a result of Google's acquisition of Metaweb, a start-up that's developed more meaningful ways to search the web by deepening its understanding of queries and the relationships between real-world entities - Google takes a giant leap forward in enhancing its mousetrap.

In a PCWorld report, John P. Mello describes the importance of this strategic move as Google working more like "a scalpel than a jackhammer." Jack Menzel, director of product development explains the enhancement as such, in Google's Official blog:

With efforts like rich snippets and the search answers feature, we’re just beginning to apply our understanding of the web to make search better. Type [barack obama birthday] in the search box and see the answer right at the top of the page. Or search for [events in San Jose] and see a list of specific events and dates. We can offer this kind of experience because we understand facts about real people and real events out in the world. But what about [colleges on the west coast with tuition under $30,000] or [actors over 40 who have won at least one oscar]? These are hard questions, and we’ve acquired Metaweb because we believe working together we’ll be able to provide better answers.

Facebook's Open Graph initiative is taking a different approach. Its controversial 'instant personalization' and 'like buttons' while not well received by all its users is Zuckerberg's attempt to convert people's preferences into a more personalized experience, albeit one that treads on the sensitive boundaries of privacy.

However, in so doing, since Facebook has the “like” data recording the preferences of its 500 millions users, it would be a very good position to harness its collective metadata into creating a compelling search product. This coupled with the bilions of ad dollars in the offing, there is a lot at stake for Google and Facebook to compete for. The metadata that is emanating from Facebook's Open Graph could create a rival structure to what Google's Metaweb has built, according to Kim-Mai Cutter at Deals & More.


With the battlefield set in play, the only component that Google lacks is its own social network. While it's tried to compete in the social media space with its Orkut platform and its recent launch of "Buzz," it has not been able to deliver.  Facebook, on the other hand while it lacks Google's vast date-mines, it does have close to 500 million users to mobilize and test the waters as it delves further into the metadata space.

So it will interesting to see who will fit the missing pieces of the 'metadata' puzzle together, at a faster clip and will scale more expeditiously. Any wagers as to which Internet giant will rule in the next decade?

For other posts pertaining to Google and Facebook competing head-on, see the following.