January 16th, 2013

Facebook’s New Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook has unveiled their new social search development, Graph Search, allowing more intelligent and in-depth searching within the social media platform. Not hugely exciting news for many users, but perhaps the biggest development in the battle between Facebook and Google to date…

The new natural search option gives users the option to search through highly specific and personalised content within their Facebook world, from something as simple as: “local cafes” to a query as complicated as: “local French cafes that my friend Joe Bloggs likes”. The layout of your timeline will be changed to include a large search toolbar at the top of the page when Graph Search rolls out site-wide. From there, you will be able to enter search terms that the natural language search API will try to match according to your friends’ data and your own information relating to your location, interests and contacts. Once you have an initial set of results you have the option of refining them using a dropdown menu on the right which gives you several different options like specifying page category, result type (for example, videos, pictures or business pages) or only showing results that are linked to your family, groups, or particular friends. And because Graph Search is integrated with Bing, you also have the option of searching outside Facebook by clicking over to web search.

Zuckerberg has a lot to say about his new baby, as you can see in the video below, promising that Graph Search has a long way to go in terms of further development, for example adding Instagram data to results in the near future. And though Graph Search seems to have a lot of similarities to Google Knowledge Graph in its natural search technology, Zuckerberg maintains that because it is contained within the social domain, it is not a direct competitor to Google web search. “We’re not indexing the web,” Zuckerberg explained, “We’re indexing our map of the graph – the graph is really big and its constantly changing.”

From an advertiser’s point of view, of course, anything that increases the opportunity for connection between users and pages and provides a more detailed ‘map’ of user data is going to be a valuable tool, and it’s no secret that recent developments within the world of Facebook have been tailored more towards shareholders and advertisers than the users themselves. It’s certainly a massive improvement on Facebook’s previous search tool, which was clunky and limited and usually ended in frustration. It remains to be seen how useful Graph Search turns out to be, but it has the potential to have a variety of uses for both business and social users – for example: recruitment, ad targeting, events, and…even more in-depth stalking if that’s the kind of thing you like to do on Facebook…

Responding to the big privacy question, Facebook as asserted that you will only be able to search content that has been willingly shared with you by your contacts. It could also prove to be an effective method of streamlining your own content, enabling you to search through your timeline history and remove or hide any content you no longer want to be seen.

The roll-out will apparently be very slow, with Zuckerberg asserting that there will be “years and years” of development ahead for their “third pillar” – making a holy trinity of Facebook’s News Feed, Timeline and now Graph Search. “We look at Facebook as a big social database,” Zuckerberg said, leading us back to the eternal question: what is Facebook going to¬†do with all that juicy data?

For a brief walkthrough of Facebook Graph Search, check out the video below:

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