On January 15th, Facebook announced their new project and invited journalists to a press conference with the note: “Come and see what we’re building.” What is this new project, you ask? The long speculated Facebook Phone? A new dedicated iPad app? Nope. Facebook pulled the curtain off its new search tool, “Graph Search”.
Where search engines like Google search everything on the public web, Facebook has been quietly building a network of information about its members who have voluntarily shared “likes”, 240 billion photos and over a trillion connections. Users once had to browse this information one page at a time. Now, it is possible to search this personal database by four main categories: People, Photos, Places and Interests.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has pronounced the service as Facebook’s third pillar, along with News Feed and Timeline. Graph Search gives its users the power to find personalized and bias results from other users of the social media giant. If I wanted to find “What music do my co-workers listen to?” or “Where is the best place in Cedar Falls to eat?” I can unearth the answers to these queries based on what my friends have shared on their Facebook account, tapping in to their “likes” and where they have “checked in”.
For now the service is “strictly beta” which is why the search is only limited to four categories but Facebook employees have said the service will expand to search very specific criteria-like posts. So if you missed the name of a friend of a friend at a party, you will have the ability to find those people faster.
This new service does come with its fair share of issues, the largest of which being the heavy dependence on what your friends decide to share. If you have friends who are not extremely active users, this service won’t give you much more than Bing results. However, the service does paint a target on services like LinkedIn, Foursqaure and Yelp.
If Graph Search is a success, there could be a shift in active Facebook users relying on it instead of the other various review websites. This could potentially make Facebook a more powerful marketing tool than ever.