Finally, Facebook has a challenger to Google in search – but with a few very important differences. Mark Zuckerberg yesterday launched the new “Graph Search” feature at the Facebook campus. The new service will enable users to quickly search through photos, friends, places and members interests.
The most scary part of how powerful this search engine will be is the sheer number of users it can use to get results. Right now Graph Search uses 1 billion people’s profiles for data, and a trillion connections between them. For example, if you “Like” a friend’s picture of trail running, Facebook might assume you might like trail running. Build that data out further with things like location info and basic profile details, and then Facebook can quickly link them up for natural language based search questions like:
People: “friends who live in my city,” “people from my hometown who like hiking,” “friends of friends who have been to Kruger National National Park,” “software engineers who live in Cape Town 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 Cape Town,” “photos of the Eiffel Tower”
Places: “restaurants in Johannesburg,” “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”
The big question that needs to be asked is whether search results based on your friend’s likes or interests will be more relevant to the average person out there. Facebook is also pretty adamant that Graph Search will indeed follow your currently set privacy settings, so the links in the search results to you will not be available to the public.
Right now Graph Search is still in beta, and is not yet available broadly. You can sign up for the beta rollout at www.facebook.com/graphsearch.