Facebook Graph Search is a revolutionary new feature to help us find people, places, photos and much more all through Facebook. Graph Search is a type of friends based search engine and is all about connections.
Graph Search allows us to search for something we need by what our friends and communities are “liking” and commenting on. For example, if you were to search for ‘bars in Leeds my friends like’ your results are tailored to you in the sense that the bars that are shown would be the ones your friends like to go to. Facebook is aiming to connect us with our friends in a smarter, more useful way.
How does it work?
Facebook users are no strangers to new features. First it was the timeline, then the “share” button and now Graph Search. This feature is extremely different for Facebook in that it potentially represents a turning point in search history and the way in which we search altogether.
With this Facebook are attempting to capitalise on a gap in the search market which with considerable work could be worthwhile, after all would you go to the first gym that came up on Google or the gym that your friends like best? The same can be said for holidays, restaurants and shops but the search is limited to that of just your friends. In order to adhere to the privacy settings on many users Facebook accounts, Facebook assures us that we cannot see any more through this search than we would ordinarily be able to see on Facebook, so the information you are retrieving is limited.
Graph search does also have another drawback in the sense that not every Facebook user “likes” their favourite places on Facebook nor do they necessarily like their favourite bands or tag the places that they are in. Graph Search is dependent upon users sharing their day to day activities in order to build up a database that is useful enough for people to rely on as a search form.
Mark Zuckerberg has said ‘Graph Search is a really big project. Eventually we want to index all the posts and all of the content on Facebook.’ He also went on to say that he believes Graph Search and web search are very different because their results are generated in different ways. Web search tries to provide you with the best match to your keywords whereas Graph Search tries to connect everything you are searching for through your friends and their experiences, leading to a more personal search result.
What does this mean for the future of search?
Is Facebook really trying to take on Google in the world of search? Yes, but not just yet. Graph Search has been released as a beta version and is clearly in its infancy; even Zuckerberg himself has said that ‘It will take years and years to map the whole index of the graph.’ It does however present a challenge for Google in that we know that Google has an interest in the social side of things with tools like Google+ but with is popularity nowhere near that of Facebook this is something that Google (at least for now) could not replicate.
In theory this would be a way that people would like to search but it is completely dependent upon how interactive the users are and how true to life our Facebook “likes” really are. While the Graph Search could be a useful tool it is not necessarily something people were asking for, so although it has filled a gap in the market it does not guarantee it to become one of our regular ways to search.
Graph Search is a great way to utilise all of the data that Facebook has but can only really ever be successful for the social aspect of our lives. You probably wouldn’t consult Facebook if you were looking for a loan for example, this would still be a job for the big contenders.
Facebook is undoubtedly attempting to challenge Google for a share in the world of search engine supremacy but there aren’t yet enough connections in place for it to be successful. Graph Search may eventually take off and pose a threat to certain aspects of Google but for the near future it seems even though Facebook are testing the waters, Google will definitely remain on top. It will however be interesting to see which direction this takes search engines in the future.