Lately, I've noticed that Facebook search presents it's autocomplete options as a nice categorized list:

Facebook Search Result

However, I'm uncertain what to call this pattern. It reminds me a bit of what Peter Morville calls "Federated Search" (in his excellent book Search Patterns; here's a Slideshare overview of the content and here's his pattern library), whereby the search is run simultaneously across multiple databases, and the results are presented in discrete categories by source.

The (now defunct) Kosmix search result page is an example of this, with results being returned in separated categorized (non-intermingled) panes:

Kosmix Results

However, "federated search" has typically referred to the results page pattern, not something that exists in the auto-complete space. I've taken to calling this federated auto-complete, but I'm wondering if there's another common/"more official" name that exists?

  • iOS does this as well in their search page, as dies Windows 7's Start search. Still dunno what it's called.
    – Ben Brocka
    Apr 27, 2012 at 18:24
  • @BenBrocka Aren't both of those examples cases of results as you type coupled with a federated display of those results? The unique thing about Facebook for me is that the federated auto-complete is completely separate from the SERP (which is also federated, but returns different results). Apr 27, 2012 at 18:45
  • I guess, I figured you were focused more on the category segregation rather than the specifics of autocomplete vs search results. Technically the FB "autocomplete" is also a results page
    – Ben Brocka
    Apr 27, 2012 at 19:18

1 Answer 1


This sounds like a composite of two patterns. It's not a hybrid, borrowing some aspects from autocomplete and some from federated search; it's nothing more or less than auto-complete and federated search used together. Therefore I think your calling out the existing patterns is preferable to using a unique name, even if someone has already coined one.

This is a little nit-picky, but it should be called federated auto-suggest, the difference being that auto-complete is for search terms and auto-suggest is for search results.

  • 3
    +1 for federated auto-suggest (instead of auto-complete). I always confuse the names of the two patterns. Apr 27, 2012 at 18:49
  • Me too, to the point that I edited your question with the intent of changing "complete" to "suggest" and still got it backwards. Apr 30, 2012 at 12:46
  • That kind of search is also known as faceted search.
    – Agos
    May 4, 2012 at 7:20
  • @Agos Federated search presents the results broken up into categories. Faceted search allows the results to be filtered by category. May 4, 2012 at 14:26

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