Facebook has been making a big fuss over its latest product development, and it looks quite different to what anyone was expecting. It’s called Graph Search and it will allow Facebook to become a lot more searchable.
The searches are based on four areas: people, photo, places and interests and aims to utilise the network of 1 billion people, 240 billion photos and 1 trillion connections. The aim is to answer questions – unlike web search, which only pulls up a list of links that may or may not answer your questions. It will allow you to search for things like “Restaurants in London that my friends have been to” or “photos of my friends before 1990”. It’s aiming to allow people to actually use Facebook data in a meaningful way. The results will be supported by Bing search results if Facebook can’t provide the requested information.
This will apparently allow people to make new connections. Facebook use the example of “people named Chris who are friends of Lars and went to Stanford University” – you can then drill down with further filters until you find who you’re looking for. They even provide the example of “friend of my friends who are single male San Francisco, Calif., and who are from India”.
Interestingly, Facebook claim it’s a powerful recruiting tool. Apparently you can search for “people who have been product managers and who have been founders”. You don’t need to have a connection to these people as long as this information is public. I’m surprised that Facebook are pushing recruitment benefits (no mention of commercial benefits from Facebook), but it’s quite exciting.
You can also do searches for things like “TV shows liked by Software Engineers”, which could be brilliant for sentiment advertising and candidate research. It looks like we might be able to give clients a much better idea of what their candidates are really interested in. It could help us create much more targeted content too.
However, as they are repeatedly stressing that this will respect users’ privacy, it may just be the case that everyone decides to provide as little information about themselves as possible (I suspect recent privacy changes are pushing a lot of people in this direction already). They have confirmed that you will only be able to search for things you would already be able to see anyway. They will make it clear what can be seen and by whom.
It’s about time Facebook did something proper with search and I look forward to having a proper play with it! I’ve joined the waiting list for Graph Search Beta here.
I followed the live stream – with some interesting commentary and some good photos – here.