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Facebook: Search me

January 17, 2013

MARK ZUCKERBERG is trying to spice up things online with some pillar talk. Unveiling a revamped search engine on January 15th, the boss of Facebook referred to it as the ?third pillar? of the social network alongside its timeline, which lets individual users post what they have been up to, and its news feed, which lets them see what their friends are doing. Facebook?s search offering has long been so dire that any improvement to it is a welcome relief. But the company will have to do much more in future if it wants to mount a serious challenge to Google?s dominance of the online-search business.

This still accounts for the lion?s share of digital advertising. According to eMarketer, a research firm, an estimated $17.6 billion was spent on search ads in America alone last year, with Google pocketing three-quarters of that sum. Facebook has been focused on digital display advertising and its success in winning business has helped its share price rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of a catastrophic stockmarket flotation last year (see chart). If it can pinch search ads from Google and others too, its shareholders will be even more delighted.Hence Mr Zuckerberg?s...

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