Facebook’s big launch today is a new search engine to rival Google

For the past week or so the technology press has been widely speculating about an announcement from Facebook, expected this afternoon at its Menlo Park headquarters. Will it be the rumoured and oft denied phone? Or a new ad platform or search engine? Reports are now saying it is the latter and expect Facebook to launch its own search engine.

According to Pocket-Lint, as Google is now gaining ground in the social networking space with Google+, Facebook is planning to strike back and hit it (and Microsoft’s Bing) with a search rival.

Pocket-lint reports: “Although exact details of how the new search engine will work remain unclear for now, we have been told that the social network is planning to launch a big new ‘search feature’ on the site ‘very soon’, one that will shake everything up.

“Sources who don’t wish to be named have confirmed to Pocket-lint that the big announcement at the company’s event will focus on the new search feature with an expected roll-out shortly afterwards. Although the information is light on detail, the source is trusted and has given us legitimate information before.”

At the moment, Facebook’s basic search service only allows users to look for “people, places and things”. Today’s announcement is apparently set to take that much further.

Sky News is also reporting that search is the most likely candidate for tonight’s big launch:

“Journalists have been called to Facebook’s California HQ for a special announcement, with a new search feature being most likely. Facebook is holding a mystery “press event”, triggering a guessing game about what it could unveil – with suggestions ranging from a smartphone to a search engine,” Sky News reports.

Forbes also thinks that Facebook could have good reason to launch a search engine. The revenue arguments are compelling:

“The second question is would it hurt Google? At least that’s the question that most people would ask and while it might given its billion plus user base, the market share figures from comScore reveal that Google lacks roughly one-third of the online search engine market in the U.S. It’s those other firms  – Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo!, IAC/Interactive and AOL — that I would be more worried about in terms of potentially losing market share should Facebook announce a search engine. That said, Facebook could potentially offer results based on social endorsements as well as or instead of simple search rankings. Imagine searching for something and finding out how many people “like” it — that could prove more helpful if not insightful than a top Google ranking.

“Why would Facebook develop a search engine of its own? Revenue. Plain and simple and again that would likely result in Wall Street analysts revisiting their forecasts and price targets for FB shares – probable,” Forbes reports.