Facebook Buys TheFind: Great Potential That Could Be Wasted

TheFind product search

In something of a surprise, last week Facebook announced it was buying shopping engine TheFind. TheFind will now shut down as its team joins Facebook.

Below is the statement that was posted on TheFind’s site:

For the last nine years, we’ve worked hard to bring you a shopping experience that’s easy, efficient and fun – searching all the stores on the web to find just the right products you’re looking to buy.

We are now starting our next chapter by combining forces with Facebook to do even more for consumers. Facebook’s resources and platform give us the opportunity to scale our expertise in product sourcing to the over 1 billion people that use the platform.

Key members of our team are joining the company and will be working hard to integrate our technology to make the ads you see on Facebook every day better and more relevant to you.

Unfortunately, this means we will be taking our search engine offline in the next few weeks.

Thank you for your loyalty and for making this a fun journey for all of us!

TheFind was one of the more innovative shopping search sites and brings a range of expertise and capabilities to Facebook. Yet Facebook may not use everything TheFind has to offer.

The official word from both sides is that the acquisition is about improving ads on Facebook. But TheFind could also help Facebook with Graph Search, Local and product search.

Facebook has flirted with commerce off and on since its inception. Several years ago there was an expectation that brands and retailers would be driving significant e-commerce off Facebook Pages. That didn’t materialize.

As Google and Amazon battle it out for shopping supremacy, Facebook could use TheFind’s infrastructure to build a product search marketplace. While this could distract from the focus on Facebook ads, why wouldn’t Facebook want to do this? Alternatively Facebook could continue to operate TheFind as a stand-alone site just as it does with Instagram and WhatsApp.

Graph Search remains an underdeveloped asset at Facebook. Engineers at TheFind could help improve and make Graph Search a better and more widely used offering. In addition TheFind could also help with place discovery/search (a neglected component of Graph Search) and even help Facebook develop the long-awaited Places app.

In my mind there are numerous possibilities and ways that TheFind team and its current product could be used by Facebook. While not everything about the acquisition has been completely figured out it does seem like TheFind won’t be fully “leveraged” in the narrow focus on ads. But maybe Facebook will surprise us.

What do you think? If you were running Facebook how would you utilize all TheFind’s capabilities?

As a final thought: the acquisition of TheFind marks a kind of conclusion to the “price comparison engine” era. While sites like Shopping.com (eBay), PriceGrabber, Nextag and others remain in existence, they haven’t built brands and the prominence of these sites has faded dramatically. They’ve largely disappeared from the Top 50 sites.

Now it’s really a battle between Amazon, eBay (to a lesser degree), Google and individual branded retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target.

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