Facebook notified media around the world they had a big announcement to make yesterday. Like many others, I was on the edge of my seat waiting to hear what new feature was going to be introduced yesterday to boost Facebook’s stock price and confidence on Wall Street. Speculation was rampant with thoughts of mobile advertising networks, a gaming platform, its own smartphone, a Facebook OS, a total site redesign, real privacy features and other brilliant ideas.
Instead of those ideas, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO unveiled Graph Search, a new search engine, currently in beta (sign up for the waitlist here) Facebook says “takes us back to our roots and allows people to use the graph to make new connections.” Was this announcement one of progress, or just another assault on Google, Yahoo, Bing and Facebook’s other rivals?
I’ve heard few arguments that Facebook’s current search capabilities are lacking. When one attempts to search for a specific person the search results vary tremendously. I’m hoping this will be an improvement.
Graph Search will focus on people, photos, places and interests. Graph Search will appear as a bigger search bar at the top of each page. It appears to work like this: Let’s say you’re looking for a great sandwich for lunch. Instead of performing a Google search or visiting Yelp, you decide to use Graph Search. This method will pull recommendations for you based on what your Facebook friends like the most. It will use their check-ins, tags and Likes to find you a list of recommendations.
You will also be able to use Graph Search to find specific photos of your friends and even search for specific people you would like to connect with or just chat with. This kind of functionality will help people on both a personal and professional level and could eventually pit Facebook against a network like LinkedIn.
As you would expect, I’m curious about how privacy works with Graph Search. We’re told, “With Graph Search, you can look up anything shared with you on Facebook, and others can find stuff you’ve shared with them, including content set to Public. That means different people see different results.” Presumably, if you want to eliminate parts of your life from Graph Search results, you can do that with the newly-expanded privacy controls Facebook rolled out last month and should be available to us all soon if you don’t have access already.
Searches will be built with natural language like “Friends who like Mexican food” or “What music do my friends in Boston like?” Early reports are that information on apps like Instagram isn’t included in search results but I’m guessing that is not far off.
Graph Search is also geographically tuned in. If you are travelling to New York on business and you’re looking for someone to grab dinner with, Graph Search will be able to assist.
Certainly this is a step forward for Facebook’s search capabilities. Their search engine has lacked even basic user friendliness since its inception. Whether this is an earth-shattering announcement or not is still to be seen. Of course, the product has to come out of beta and get used by the masses before it can be fairly judged. Let’s wait and see. Let’s also wait and see which Facebook rivals are affected the most by this rollout.
What do you think about Graph Search? Do you think it’s an advancement for businesses using Facebook for marketing?