***Updated ”It Was Malware” info at end of post***

Facebook have begun limited tests of a Facebook web search bar, next to the regular Facebook search at the top of the page. This is a potentially massive move that could see big powershifts in the world of search.

Currently the search bar returns results from Bing. This is about the biggest jump Microsoft could make, leveraging Facebook’s 220 million user base to start gaining real traction against Google.

However, it could be costing them dearly. Google once paid out several million to MySpace to provide search, and the scale of Facebook means even Microsoft’s war chest will feel a lot lighter.

But, if the they are smart, this deal should be about something more than just telephone-number sized payouts. We know that Google is not the same search engine from years ago. It has been shaped by 3 factors: link spam, monitisation and social media. Facebook then know that Google is where the buyers are, especially high end products. Microsoft know that aiming to be another Google is not good enough.

So, if the lightbulbs were on when Facebook and Microsoft were in the kitchen, the two companies could have cooked up more than a cash deal. Facebook, for instance, could have opened up its ‘like’ data to Bing’s algorithm. In return, Bing could share revenue on like-assisted clicks.

This would offer a new dynamic to search, finally underpinning the social search revolution we have been waiting for. Imagine Bing results, PPC and organic, ranked by likes, not just the auction model. Imagine Facebook offering real relevancy and web reach in it’s ad space. Imagine a SERP’s dotted with faces of friends that have liked or clicked on ads and results.

This is a space Google has been scrabbling to occupy, with Buzz, and feeding Twitter results into SERP’s. And now it’s arch rivals are potentially in position to deliver real damage – if they can get the technology right. Because a Facebook powered Bing is something people could relate to, and ‘get’.

Poor Google must be bursting at the seams to have this kind of chance. I’m pretty sure they could sketch up a killer search/like algorithm on the back of a napkin. I don’t have much confidence in Bing, and Facebook up till now haven’t exactly swept away everyone else with it’s 220m users.

But, I guess its all about the people, and there have been plenty of defectors from Google to Microsoft and Facebook, so maybe there is something cooking.

It just remains to be seen if it was Jamie or Heston in the kitchen.

***UPDATE****

Well it appears that Facebook have not been testing webs search boxes – it could be malware, as they told Search Engine Land (unless this of course is not further misinformation!!)

So much for firing up WordPress as soon as a story breaks….Still, I stand by my comments above. Microsoft and Facebook do have a lot to gain if they play their cards right.

Hit me up in the comments if anyone find out further news on this!