From a Facebook smartphone to developing its e-commerce presence, there's no shortage of rumors as to just what Facebook will roll out next week. But there's growing certainty that the social giant will eventually get into the search business, if not next week, sometime this year, analysts said.
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"We have no question in our mind that given their broad vision of making Facebook a site that people come to, that search will become a critical component of it," said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.
Facebook no longer wants to be just a social networking site. It's growing its services and features to keep users on its platform longer, and search is a key way to accomplish that, Bajarin said.
"There's been a general approach to the Yahoos of the world, MSNs of the world, where eventually you want to keep the eyeballs on your site as long as you can," Bajarin said. "So think of it this way, Facebook is really going in the direction of creating a destination page that people come to where they can get a lot of things—not just social networking—shopping news sports weather as well as search because search becomes the glue."
While Bajarin said it's more likely Facebook will announce something related to mobile next week, he does expect the company to introduce a search product sometime this year. But there's still the mystery of just what kind of search product it will be.
"Search is about the only thing we kind of know they've been working on one," said analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities. "My guess is it's not a global search, I think it's probably a curated search product. So just some enhancement to look and see what your friends have posted, more like a timeline search, ... but it could be anything,"
With the Internet search market expected to reach $50 billion in 2013, the incentive is definitely there for Facebook—which has been looking for ways to grow its revenue stream— to expand beyond its platform and get into the global search business. And that could be a problem for the dominant player in search, Google.
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"Given the fact they have almost a billion users, Google should clearly be concerned. But again, a lot will be dependent on how broad a Facebook search engine is," Bajarin said. "It could be search structured in the Facebook community, but if it's broader, it could be tied to ads and it could be a serious threat to Google."
Facebook is on a mission to increase its revenue, and it is pushing into new areas to help drive revenue growth, Dan Niles, CIO of Alpha One capital partners, said Thursday on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."
Niles, who was once negative on Facebook, is now bullish on the stock, saying it could soar above its IPO price of $38, driven by mobile ad growth and new ventures, including search.
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Last June, the social network started making money off its mobile platform with the introduction of sponsored posts in users' newsfeeds The mobile ads helped it generate about $1 million a day in the June quarter, Niles said.
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In December, Facebook also entered the e-commerce space and launched its Facebook gift service, enabling users to buy and send gifts to other users via its platform. The company gets to keep 10 percent of sales made on the platform, something that will no doubt help it grow revenue in 2013, Niles said.
Search could be the next money making venture, he said.
"The thing that I'm waiting for is when do they get into search. And it's not going to surprise me that if sometime in 2013, they get into the search business. And that's going to be another big driver," Niles said.