Facebook taps Wikipedia for new info panel in search results

When you search something on Google — a popular celebrity, for example — you’ll see an information panel that includes relevant details at a glance: age, notable works, immediate family members, birth date, and similar things. Facebook is now testing an information panel of its own that is largely the same, though it is found in the social media website’s search results — and it, too, is powered by Wikipedia.

The info panel will appear in Facebook search results for things like places and public figures, the company told TechCrunch. The feature is described as a pilot at this time, meaning there’s a good chance you won’t yet see it yourself. The information is pulled from Wikipedia and is intended to help users find factual information quickly.

The info panel would be useful for a number of reasons — it prevents users from leaving Facebook for different websites to find these details, for example. As well, the panel provides more accurate information than users may get from Pages managed by fans.

Unfortunately, at least in its current form, the info panel isn’t quite as useful as the similar offering found in Google Search. Users who have access to the pilot feature report that it is only available for certain searches, failing to retrieve data on other topics and interests.

As well, users can expect to be directed to other aspects of Facebook when they use Facebook Search — when applicable, of course — rather than third-party sources. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on what the user is looking for, but it will make the feature fairly limited in usefulness for users who are more interested in the information rather than what Facebook has to offer about the subject.

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