Today Facebook is taking a big step toward leveraging one of its major possible competitors – search engines, and specifically Google – into more traffic for, well, Facebook. From an email sent by Facebook PR:
Starting tomorrow (Weds), we are making limited public search listings available to people who are not logged in to Facebook. A public search listing provides, at most, the name and profile picture of any Facebook member that has their search privacy settings set to “Everyone”. It will show less information about a person than results of a search performed by someone logged in to Facebook. We wanted to give people who had never come to Facebook, or who are not currently registered, the opportunity to discover their friends who are on Facebook.
It’ll look like this when you get to facebook.com:
OK, that’s nice, now you can find out folks who are on Facebook without registering. But the real kicker is this:
We will soon be indexing public search listings in external search engines such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. to allow more people to connect with who they are looking for. We are giving users approximately one month to set their privacy options before we allow search engines to index these public search listings.
From the FAQ I was also sent:
Why and when will you be allowing search engines to index these public search listings?
Many people who are not familiar with Facebook perform searches for people they are looking for using other search engines such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. Indexing public search listings results for people on Facebook in these external search engines allow more people to connect with those they are looking for. We are giving users approximately one month to set their privacy options before we allow search engines to index these public search listings.
Can users opt out of having a public search listing?
Yes. All users have several options in regards to the privacy of their public search listings. In addition, we are informing all users that external indexing will occur in approximately one month, so they have time to adjust their privacy settings. All of these options can be accessed from the Search Privacy page.
• Users who have their search privacy set to “Everyone”: Users who currently have search set to “Everyone” will have a public search listing created for them. They have additional options to remove their public search listings from search results on Facebook’s Welcome page, to remove their public search listings from external search engine results, or to do both.
• Users who have their search privacy restricted: Users who currently have search set to anything other than “everyone” have not had public search listings created for them. Their public search listings will not appear in search results from Facebook’s Welcome page or in search engine results.
Who is indexed in these searches?
Only users who are over 18 and have the “Allow my public search listing to be indexed in external search engines” checked in their search privacy settings will appear in external searches.
Why am I on about this? Well, it’ll be interesting to see how Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask, and AOL onebox, or don’t onebox, the Facebook listings. Very, very interesting. Here’s what Facebook shows as how a result for a non public search will look on the Facebook site:
Hmmm. I bet it’ll look different in Google. But hey, it’d be cool to be able to poke folks right there in Google’s result pages, now, wouldn’t it? Hmmmmm?