Barely a month goes past where Facebook doesn’t attempt to strengthen its position in mobile and local search; two things that increasingly go hand in hand. August is no exception. Having joined forces with OpenTable, the US restaurant directory, Facebook are hoping to take an even bigger bite out of the market as hungry diners will be able to make reservations via Facebook for over 20,000 restaurants across America.
Facebook are not expected to receive any commission for the bookings. Rather, by building in this kind of functionality – the likes of which most restaurants don’t have on their own websites – they are encouraging small businesses to make their Facebook pages central to the way they interact with their customers.
So in the battle for local search, should the likes of Google+ Local, Yelp and FourSquare be concerned? Like all the other small changes Facebook have made this year, the partnership with OpenTable won’t single handedly shift consumer behaviour, but when you put all the changes together the resulting service to local business begins to look very attractive. There’s a long way to go, but as Facebook engineer Lars Rasmussen explained at the start of the year, the days of big single changes that transform social networking are behind us. Now it’s the slow but persistent evolution of the model that will characterise Facebook’s future as a social/search hybrid, and this partnership with OpenTable is one more step towards that future.