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Facebook’s Newest Announcement – What It Is and What It Means

Facebook’s Newest Announcement – What It Is and What It Means image origin 66912200692When I was looking for a pediatric dentist, I turned to Facebook.

I didn’t Google “Pediatric Dentist Beverly”. I didn’t use the business Yellow Pages (which I depressingly still get delivered to my door, in an obscene amount of plastic wrap, all of which goes directly into the recycle bin.)

I turned to the network I have built on Facebook. I found my answer based on the recommendations and advice of my friends and family.

I suspect that more and more Facebook users are like me.

Facebook suspects this too, which is why they created and announced Facebook Graph Search last week.

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Facebook Graph Search is definitely intended to give Google a run for its money.

Instead of searching the “faceless web” of Google, Bing and others and sorting through a million and one results that might not be relevant, Facebook is betting that its users will search inside the social network for things they like, stuff to do and items to purchase.

While I didn’t use the Search function to find a pediatric dentist (I posted a question in a status update), I can immediately see how this function will be useful in culling search results based on my interests and those that I truest and care about.

So, what is Facebook Graph Search?

  • The point of Facebook Graph Search is to you, the Facebook user, to use all the data collected from your personal network to aid in your search for a specific thing.

Jared Newman of Time’s Tech blog puts it this way:

 “Think of it like Google for everything that your friends know; instead of searching the Web for somewhere to eat or something to do, you could just search through the collective wisdom of your network.”

  • Rather than searches based on keywords, you can use a plain English search term and get very specific result. The examples that Facebook gave at the press conference to announce Graph Search are “people who like tennis and live nearby,” “tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends,” “movies liked by people who are film directors” and “friends of friends who have been to Yosemite National Park.”
  • Graph Search results are not like Google, which provides external links to information. Graph Search results keep you inside the social network – links to pages for people, places and things that match. It’s supposed to be faster, more personal and more customized (and, of course, designed to keep you on Facebook longer).
  • Right now Graph Search only searches shared photos, likes and check-ins, not actual status updates. This does not include Instagram photos or data from Facebook’s Open Graph (other applications that link with it, like Spotify). But mining data from status updates and connected applications is assuredly coming.

What does it mean for Facebook users?   

  • Graph Search is betting that you will like more things on Facebook and check-in to more places in order to be more helpful to your friends.

As an example, Tom Stocky, one of the creators of Graph Search, said at the press conference:

“You might be inclined to ‘like’ what you like so when your friends search, they’ll find it. I probably would never have liked my dentist on Facebook before, but now I do because it’s a way of letting my friends know.”

  • What cannot be found inside Facebook by using Graph Search will be provided as external links through Bing (a Google competitor).
  • Facebook is not using it to make money – yet. There are no promotional links or ads on it (like the paid search results at the top and on the side of a Google search).

What about privacy?

  • There are clear privacy implications with a comprehensive search function such as Graph Search. But for me, I only use Facebook for things I want to share. Like the saying goes – “If you don’t want others to see it, don’t put it on Facebook.”
  • I suggest listening to Zuck himself and “take some time to review your stuff”. If it’s on Facebook, even if you are listed as Private, it may be able to be found. Be careful and wise about what you share on the internet.
  • Check your privacy settings and fine tune your friend list and permission. Go through and cull your Friends list. Mark those closest to you as Close Friends so their likes, photos and check-ins will weigh the most heavily in your Facebook Graph Search results.
  • Get familiar with the Facebook Privacy changes that you might not know about. Did you know that in December Facebook eliminated the ability of to hide your profile from being found in Facebook’s old search)?

How can I get Graph Search?

Graph Search in beta right now, being rolled out to a limited number of A-Listers.

If you want to sign up to get on the waitlist (as I have), go to: facebook.com/graphsearch

Conclusion

The announcement that Facebook is developing a new, more comprehensive search function should not be shocking to anyone.

It makes perfect sense from a business standpoint. Facebook wants you to stay on their site, not navigate away when you are looking for something.

In September 2012, Facebook’s stock price shot up after Zuckerberg addressed the TechCrunch Disruptconference and candidly discussed his notion of search:

“Search is interesting. We do on the order of 1 billion queries a day and we’re basically not even trying. Today with search the vast majority of it is people trying to find people, but there’s also a meaningful portion of queries where people are trying to find Pages, brand Pages, other business Pages — so there’s a bunch of that that actually does link to commercial behavior, and I think there’s a big opportunity there and we just need to go do that.”

Read more:

Facebook’s Bold, Compelling and Scary Engine of Discovery: The Inside Story of Graph Search – Wired Magazine

How The New Facebook Search Is Different & Unique From Google Search – Search Engine Land

Are you excited about Facebook Graph Search? Scared? Curious? Disgusted? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section or on my Facebook page. Thanks for reading!

photo credit: fiddle oak via photopin cc

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