“Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected”, say Tom Stocky and Lars Rasmussen on the Facebook Newsroom page. “The main way we do this is by giving people the tools to map out their relationships with the people and things they care about. We call this map the graph. It's big and constantly expanding with new people, content and connections. There are already more than a billion people, more than 240 billion photos and more than a trillion connections.”
The Graph Search is at the top of the Facebook page, replacing the original toolbar but twice the size. Each separate search creates a new page, with the searched phrase as a title, and the results underneath. The title can be changed, slightly or completely, to alter the content of the page with instantaneous results.
There are some heralding Graph Search as Facebook’s first step towards the creation of an entire web search engine, meaning a second step could tread on Google’s foot. It is important not to confuse the Graph Search as a web search, however, as Facebook are quick to point out on the Newsroom page:
“Graph Search and web search are very different. Web search is designed to take a set of keywords (for example: “hip hop”) and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. With Graph Search you combine phrases (for example: "my friends in New York who like Jay-Z") to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that's been shared on Facebook. We believe they have very different uses.”
So, for example, if you had searched for "my friends in New York who like Jay-Z" without success, you could just change “New York” to “San Francisco”, or “Jay-Z” to “Eminem” to get a completely new page based on your results without having to start searching again.
Graph Search is in fact far more comparable to Google+, which is all about categorising your friends into Circles and finding common interests with people in Communities. With Facebook’s new Graph Search users can discover common interests with their friends, and categorise them by interests, places they’ve been or their activity on Facebook.
Of course, unlike Google+, Graph Search doesn’t allow you to search very far beyond your friendship groups, due to profile and personal information privacy controls. It is possible, however, to find connections between people who are not in your friendship group, with the ability to search for the interests of friends with friends as long as it doesn't affect their privacy settings. In fact, the introduction allays any fears about content privacy:
“We’ve built Graph Search from the start with privacy in mind, and it respects the privacy and audience of each piece of content on Facebook. It makes finding new things much easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook.”
It is very doubtful that Facebook will threaten Google’s search engine pedestal, especially considering Facebook has Bing. Besides, Facebook has said that their intention for the Graph Search is that it be used to “make the world more open and connected”, not to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible”, like Google.
Graph Search Beta is currently only available in English and focuses on four key categories. The search titles beneath each category are those suggested on the Facebook introduction page:
- People: “friends who live in my city,” “people from my hometown who like hiking,” “friends of friends who have been to Yosemite National Park,” “software engineers who live in San Francisco and like skiing," "people who like things I like," "people who like tennis and live nearby"
- Photos: “photos I like,” “photos of my family,” “photos of my friends before 1999,” "photos of my friends taken in New York," “photos of the Eiffel Tower”
- Places: “restaurants in San Francisco,” “cities visited by my family,” "Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India," “tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends,” “restaurants in New York liked by chefs," "countries my friends have visited"
- Interests: “music my friends like,” “movies liked by people who like movies I like,” "languages my friends speak," “strategy games played by friends of my friends,” "movies liked by people who are film directors," "books read by CEOs".
Are you excited about Facebook Graph Search?
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