Yandex and Facebook had a notable run-in last year when a team of developers from the Russian search giant created a social search app called Wonder, which Facebook promptly blocked, leading to it shutting down.
But in reality the two sides have been working together since 2010, and today comes the latest chapter in the collaboration. Yandex is launching a social search feature that will serve Yandex visitors related, real-time public posts from Facebook alongside other search results.
Yandex, which accounts for around 60% of all searches in Russia, will also use Facebook firehose data to help provide more relevant results. From what we understand, this is a non-commercial deal, with access to the firehose free. Yandex would not comment on whether it would eventually add commercial elements — say, around search ads. The only other search engine that uses Facebook in its results is Bing in the U.S. A provisional mock-up of how the Yandex implementation will look is pictured at the top and below of this post.
The move is significant for a few reasons:
– It’s a way for Yandex to provide more socially credible (and some may argue accurate) information at a time when people are turning to social networks like Twitter and Facebook, as well as Google, as their primary source for searches. Bypassing search engines like Yandex ultimately hits its bread-and-butter advertising business.
– It’s a way for Facebook to continue to raise its profile among Russian consumers, and sign up new users, to compete better against local favorite Vkontakte. “Yandex indexes many blog hosting services, microblogs and social networks,” a spokesperson told me. “Now, having received full access to Facebook’s firehose of public data, this social network will be better represented in Yandex’s search results.”
– On a wider level, it’s a sign of how Facebook is making moves to extend into international markets by partnering with local players. Today: Yandex. Tomorrow: Baidu? (Maybe not so soon.)
Like the Bing agreement, Yandex uses a Facebook “firehose” covering all real-time data. For Yandex, it is restricted to public posts from Facebook users in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkey. That covers “tens of millions” of users, according to a Yandex spokesperson. The Yandex relationship is starting out gradually. First, Facebook posts will only come up in search results on Yandex’s blog search page.
“The next step is to use Facebook updates on the main search page (yandex.ru or yandex.com.tr),” a spokesperson tells me. On the main search page, Facebook will be used as a kind of social radar, listing results from whatever topics are trending at the moment, as well as posts related to the latest news. The spokesperson says in the “near future” users will not only see public posts in their search results, but comments made on those posts (something Bing launched in May 2013). Profiles and posts that Facebook users mark ‘Private’ will remain unindexed and unsearchable, he added.
The other side of the deal is a big data play: Yandex will incorporate data from Facebook’s public firehose into its own search algorithm to enhance search results. That will mean more links to articles and videos that have been shared a lot on Facebook, but also a change to the overall search results. “The popularity of materials on Facebook will be taken into consideration when ranking webpages in search results,” the spokesperson says.
The partnership between Yandex and Facebook goes back to 2010, when Yandex started to tap into updates on Facebook Pages to provide more detailed results on searches of public figures and organizations (similar to what Google does with data from Wikipedia in its search results).