A terrifying prospect: Facebook's search engine

I think I'll probably stop talking about Facebook soon -- after a certain point, I'm going to be sufficiently detached from it that I won't know what I'm talking about.  But this, I have to mention. Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg has said some scary things.  In my Quitting Facebook post, I quote a line that almost perfectly captures Zuckerberg's egocentric approach to relevance: "A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa."

He said something else recently, reports TechCrunch, that scares the crap out of me.

“we’re basically doing 1 billion queries a day and we’re not even trying. [...]Facebook is pretty uniquely positioned to answer the questions people have. At some point we’ll do it. We have a team working on it.”

He explained that users really do look to the social network to answer questions, such as where to eat sushi. This is what people want out of search, not a pile of results. “Search engines are really evolving to give you a set of answers, ‘I have a specific question, answer this question for me.’”

This isn't scary because it's bad to have a search engine that's really good at answering your question.  That's Google's goal, and I fully support it.  (Though I really hope they get even better about locking down ethical use of our personal information, and saving as little as possible while maintaining their product.)

It's scary because it's Facebook.  It's scary because (a.) Facebook has the worst track record on privacy of any major company I'm aware of that's still in business, (b.) Facebook is continuing to try to take over the whole of its users' web experience, and (c.) I don't like the idea of a world where the majority of web users get their search results from a site that proactively steers them away from challenging or important information if it will make them feel bad.

I'm going to close out with a piece of advice that I've been giving a lot lately:  Diversify your social network.  I know that most people can't or aren't willing to take on the social costs of leaving Facebook.  That's fine -- if you can, please do, but if you can't, just being active on some other social networks is enough.  If Facebook doesn't dominate your online presence and your connection to your friends and family, it can't do any of the horrible things that I'm afraid it will do.

So find your friends on Tumblr, Reddit, Twitter, Google + or wherever else you want to try.  You'll get exposed to different styles of different content streams, you'll find there are more ways to communicate with the people you care about than you had access to on your and their walls, and you'll never be faced with having to stay on Facebook because they're holding your friends hostage, or preventing your friends from leaving for fear of losing you.