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Above: Photo of Mark Zuckerberg's desk after announcing the Facebook IPO.

Seek and you shall find. That’s the promise of an improved Facebook search engine said to be in works at the world’s largest social network.

“Search, really functional and robust search, is sadly lacking within the Facebook interface,” Alitmeter Group digital advertising and media analyst Rebecca Lieb told VentureBeat. “It’s something that could have not only very tangible advertising benefits for Facebook, but also make Facebook a more compelling place for users.”

Roughly 24 Facebook engineers, on a team led by the company’s engineering director Lars Rasmussen (also a former Google engineering manager), are working to vastly improve the social network’s search experience, reported Bloomberg Businessweek, citing two sources familiar with the project.

The revamped search product, according to the sources, would help users better find content posted to Facebook but also allow for the discovery of articles, videos, and other stories that Facebook members have “liked” elsewhere on the web (or presumably read on sites with Open Graph integration).

Little else is known about the improved search engine, but if legitimate, the product could fill major gaps in Facebook’s current user experience, and make the social network more attractive to users, advertisers, and investors.

Keyword and paid search ad placements would be two obvious ways Facebook could immediately capitalize on an enhanced search tool, Lieb said. On the flip side, Facebook users, she said, would benefit from a tool that allowed them to search and reference their own Facebook history.

But the real opportunity for Facebook, Lieb said, would be delivering advertisements influenced by the social graph, similar to what Google is doing with Search Plus Your World.

“Facebook is better positioned to do that than either of the major search engines,” she said. “This would be a very complex thing to build. It would have to encompass vast, sorted real-time information. Doing this would not be simple, but it would be smart and it would be monetizable.”

Lieb, who was recently briefed by Facebook on other matters, also said that the social network is in the process of phasing out the “cheesy” advertisements (not to be confused with sponsored stories) that appear on the right-hand side of the page and hawk things such as teeth-whitening and tummy-flattening services. “I could see that real-estate being replaced by search,” she said.

But even if a new Facebook search engine is in the works, odds are that it is still far from completion. “I think that if this were on the calendar, [Facebook] would absolutely announce it because search has great monetizable potential and they could play that up,” Lieb said, adding that she’s not heard from people in the advertising community that Facebook is floating a new search product.

Facebook declined to comment on this story.

Photo credit: Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook

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