During last night's 60 Minutes segment on Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg set up Lesley Stahl's profile -- and an old colleague reached out quickly to her delight. Thus one of the major benefits cited was finding all your lost buddies or colleagues.
Yet I don't believe that people-search is the key strength of Facebook, until critical mass is reached. This has happened for College students, because Facebook's the place where you literally declare your existence on campus. However business people are still joining up -- and you can actually find more people (and their news) through Google or LinkedIn instead.
As a contender to Google, there are other advantages worth noting about Facebook. The segment mentioned that staying in touch is a main differentiator. Other types of connections can be made here, by learning about and joining other groups/affiliations you discover through friends. You also can meet friends-of-friends with common interests, and expand your social network. Plus it really doesn't take very much time or effort to check into the network.
The fact that social networking has become mainstream news is significant -- whether on Facebook, MySpace or other social sites. To me, social networking is already valuable but searching elements remain more rudimentary at this stage. I'm expecting more over time.