Facebook buys a $10 million search company

Facebook has acquired online search company Chai Labs for $10 million, in one of the social networking site’s more confusing buyout deals to date.

Chai Labs is a relatively new start-up that specializes in a technology it calls “Semantic Search,” which “uses proprietary crawling, artificial intelligence and data mining technologies to analyze and extract insights from millions of real-time data points across the web,” according to the company’s website.

Unlike when it has snatched up online sharing sites or Web-based image-hosting companies, Facebook’s purchase of Chai Labs does not have an immediately apparent value to users. While Facebook does have a built-in search engine that lets users search the entire Internet (which is basically just an embedded Bing engine), the number of people who actually use Facebook as their online search engine is probably staggeringly low.

Although, we do have to admit that even searching within Facebook is a big annoying at times. When I try to search for a friend of mine and it brings up a completely unrelated “fan page,” I can’t help but feel a bit peeved.

Still, buying a sophisticated Web search firm for $10 million means Facebook obviously has something up its sleeve beyond just improving internal site searching. It gives credence to the notion that perhaps Facebook wants to become your predominant search engine, meaning you won’t even have to step out of your social networking climate to go buy that book you’ve been meaning to get. That’s of course just speculation at this point.

And given that Chai Labs was founded in part by a former Google executive, you know that Google is going to be discussing this acquisition, which is one of Facebook’s biggest to date.