The wait is over. Facebook did their best to follow the Apple model of generating excitement and interest in a major announcement days in advance. Despite all of the rumors suggesting that it was going to be a new Facebook Phone or iPad app, it turns out to be far more impactful – Graph Search. Was it worth the wait?
Mark Zuckerberg opened the announcement by saying, “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected, we do this by giving people tools so they can map out the stories of their lives. We believe in this concept called the social graph, the sum of all these connections.” He went on to explain that there were two pillars to the Facebook experience: the News Feed and the Timeline, which allowed you to see what your connections were doing, and find out more about them. They are now adding a third pillar: Graph Search.
Graph Search is a far more powerful and intuitive internal Facebook search function. It takes into consideration not only all of the 1 billion users and user-generated content and information, but also privacy. When you search for something using Graph Search, the results will be based on you and your relationships and connections with the resulting information.
This is still in beta, as there is a lot of development left to do, but it will be so integrated into Facebook that it is replacing the top Title bar. The top of Facebook will now be Graph Search, and you will be able to simply type in what you want to see and get the answer.
Through the use of filters and a dynamic search capability, you will be able to start typing in what you’re looking for and see intuitive options and results.
Facebook demonstrated using the new tool to schedule activities with friends who have the same interests, or look for potential relationships by looking at friends of friends fiting certain criteria. It was also suggested that the tool could be used for recruiting. However, it depends on Facebook users entering the kinds of information that you’re looking for, so that it’s searchable to begin with.
When searching on content items like photos, the results are initially sorted by Likes and Comments.
One particularly useful way to use this new tool is for searches like, “photos I’ve liked” or “links I’ve liked” which you could then filter down further to find something that you’ve liked in the past, but could not easily retrieve.
Everything that you’re able to view is dictated by that content and its owner’s privacy settings. If they’ve shared something with you or made it Public, then it will show up in your results set.
You can also use Graph Search to see not only your friends and their photos, but their interests as well. You can search things like, “Books that my friends like” or more generically like, “movies liked by doctors.” You might use this to find friends who have a particular interest or skill that you need or want to discuss.
While the old search remains unchanged (albeit faster), you can use the new Graph Search to find Places that your friends have liked. This is a great way to find a business or vendor that you can trust, and a great opportunity for businesses to gain visibility through a Facebook presence. In addiiton to seeing what your friends have liked, you can see what more generic groups of people have liked by doing a search like, “Chinese restaurants in St. Louis liked by people who live in St. Louis.”
For individual users, it will be important to see how you or your information may potentially come up in a search. For this, Facebook has developed and continues to work on the Privacy Shortcuts and Activity Log areas.
Mark repeated that Graph Search is still in development, and that, “This is one of the coolest things we’ve done in a while, and I want to emphasize how early we are in this.” As a precursor, a new home screen prompt will be coming that will allow you to preview your information and how it will potentially be shared and available before Graph Search is released.
When you do a search that has limited or no results, Facebook will continue to offer Bing results from the web as options.
Mark also mentioned that their mobile development teams have been busy working on the Facebook apps, so updates are sure to be released soon.
A demonstration is available live at http://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch.
Last week, Facebook released an invitation to media to “come see what we’re building.” Prior to the announcement, Facebook managed to successfully keep a lid on what was going to be announced, but that didn’t stop the rumors from flying. Most pundits seemed to think that Facebook was going to announce a new Facebook Phone, while others speculated that the announcement would be for a Facebook Messenger app for the iPad. While a new search was suggested by some, that particular rumor seemed to circle the idea of a web search that would compete with Google.
As of this writing, Facebook stock was hovering around $31.00 per share.