Facebook has told SearchEngineLand that the appearance of a second search engine box on some users’ screens may have been the work of malware.
The appearance of this second box had looked like a test that would have had significant implications to the world of online search. For the company to even consider having a second search box at the top of this site would have been very significant.
The search box seemed like it would have directed users to Bing-powered web results, driving a substantial amount of search traffic. It could also have been a game changer for the ongoing duel between Microsoft and Google for web search.
While the battle is currently not even close, a Bing-powered search box at the top of Facebook would have helped to even the field. We wouldn’t have been surprised if Bing paid a substantial amount for having such valuable placement. Considering that Google was willing to shell out hundreds of millions each year for access to search within MySpace when the company actually had a growing user base, there’s no doubt that Microsoft would be willing to at least pay comparable amounts.
Update: A spokesperson from Facebook sent us the following statement via email:
We are not testing the placement of a separate web search field and have no plans to do so. We believe the second search field or “Search the Web” box appeared on peoples’ accounts as the result of unknown actions by a third party targeting the browser (potentially a browser plugin or malware) unrelated to Facebook.
If people think their browser may have been affected by malware, we offer a remediation process which includes a free browser-based virus scanning tool built by McAfee. Users are required to run this Scan and Repair tool and clean their machines of malware before accessing their account.
Thanks to Sam Goldfarb of Tradimax for the tip!