At it’s event at Facebook’s new headquarters on Tuesday, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced Graph Search, a new social search engine that aimed at competing with other search engines on the market today, leveraging Facebook’s already vast knowledge of its members.
We didn’t get a Facebook phone, but Graph Search, the social network’s beta tool for instant access to people, photos, places, and interests embedded within 1 trillion connections, has equally significant implications — or maybe it doesn’t.
Unlike nearly all the search engines available on the web today, Graph Search does not index the web. According to Facebook, it quite simply does not need to, since the Open Graph platform already has access to “Almost a million new people every day. 240 billion photos. 1 billion people. 1 trillion connections.” Instead of using a traditional search engine to look for a specific item, Graph Search makes it easy to search through your friend’s interests, in order to deliver search results that might be closer to what you’re looking for.
“Graph Search enhances Facebook’s functionality and makes it more useful to users,” said Rebecca Lieb, digital advertising and media analyst at Altimeter Group . “There’s a bit of a LinkedIn dimension — find people in X city who work for X corporation — but with strong natural language search capabilities for ease of use.”
The new product lets Facebook users search in real time for information based on its association with other people. For example, if you were visiting Philadelphia and were jonesing for a cheese steak, you could hop on Facebook and ask for recommendations for “cheese steak places in Philadelphia that my friends like.” Or if you were in the mood to watch a romantic comedy you could ask Facebook to recommend “new romantic comedies that my friends like.” Or if you were planning trip to Paris, you could ask for “hotels on the Left Bank that my friends like.”
I’m sure you get the picture, and I don’t blame you if this doesn’t strike you as earth-shattering news.
Online pundits almost immediately declared Facebook’s new Graph Search, announced Tuesday morning after days of frenzied media hype, to be a flop. Investors agreed, driving the stock down almost 3 percent.
Zuckerberg described Graph Search, in typical start-up fashion, as the “beta of version one”. But he also described it as the “third pillar” of Facebook, after the news feed and timeline. He later said Graph Search could be a business in its own right – a remark that will prompt anxiety among Google executives.
Graph Search is highly privacy-aware: no content can be searched unless it users already have access to it. In short, Graph Search will not give users access to any content that they couldn’t reach otherwise. In addition, new privacy settings have been put in place in case users which to exclude any of their content from being searched.
If you’re hoping to get your hands on Facebook Graph Search, you may have to wait a little bit longer, since the Beta version of this feature is currently only being rolled out to a small set of users running Facebook in US English. However, Facebook is inviting those who wish to participate in future roll-outs to join the waiting list at: facebook.com/graphsearch