Facebook sets eyes on Google with new Graph Search

Christian Thomson

Christian is a British-born entrepreneur and founder of Marwick. For over 19 years, Christian has successfully helped businesses excel in digital marketing.

Facebook sets eyes on Google with new Graph Search

By Christian Thomson.

The new search engine will allow people using Facebook to more quickly find answers to questions about friends in their Social Graph (Graph Search).

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced Graph Search at a press event today (15th Jan 2013) at the company’s Menlo Park headquarters, billing it as a new way find people, photos, places and interests that are most relevant to Facebook users.

Graph Search is the social network’s response to its massive base of 1 billion users, 240 billion photos, and 1 trillion connections. The tool is meant to provide people the answers to their to their questions about people, photos, places, and interests.

People can use the structured search tool to resurface old memories, find people in their network, and uncover connections. The service incorporates various filters such as place type, liked by, and visited by friends to make locating things faster. You can refine search queries with more advance filters to get better answers.

One example demonstrated was a very specific search for “Friends of my friends who are single male San Francisco,Calif.” That refined query returned a select group of people who fit the criteria. Apart from personal use cases, Graph Search can be used for dating and recruiting purposes, which could make the product a potential challenger to LinkedIn and various dating sites that incorporate social network profiles.

But the personal use cases do abound. A query for “photos of my friends before 1990,” for instance, popped up a number of cute kid photos, including a shot of Sheryl Sandberg from 1972.

Graph Search is going to appear as a bigger search bar at the top of each page, replacing the usual white search bar Facebook said that when people search the service, that search both determines the set of results you get and serves as a title for the page. “You can edit the title – and in doing so create your own custom view of the content you and your friends have shared on Facebook,” according to Facebook.

Zuckerberg noted that Graph Search and web search were very different. The latter was engineered to take a set of keywords — Facebook’s example was “hip hop” — to come up with possible results that best match the keywords. By contrast, Graph Search combines phrases. The other obvious difference was that each piece of Facebook content has its own audience, and for the most part that content is not public. Alluding to the obvious privacy concerns, Zuckerberg said Facebook built Graph Search from the start with that in mind, and it would respect the privacy and audience of each piece of content on Facebook.

Graph Search is being rolled out today in limited preview.

Last week, the social network sent out a media invitation to “Come and see what we’re building,” fuelling speculation that it would finally unveil a Facebook-branded phone. Wall Street’s expectations have been equally high with the company’s stock trading above $31 a share, a price point it hasn’t seen since its May 2011 Nasdaq debut.

Wall Street’s immediate reaction was to sell off on the news. After reaching a high of $31.71, Facebook’s shares reversed course and fell as low as $30.20 during the course of the Zuckerberg’s presentation.

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