Many speculated over what could be announced today at Facebook’s headquarters: Would it be the elusive Facebook phone? Though the Facebook phone rumor has been addressed (by Mr. Zuckerberg himself), today’s announcement was, I think, just as exciting: Search.
Not just any search, but Graph Search. How is this different than web search? At the announcement event today, Zuckerberg explained that web search gives you links to the answers you’re seeking, Graph Search gives you the answers. This is a big announcement for Facebook for several reasons, but first, here’s an overview of Facebook’s Graph Search:
Graph Search is just that – it searches within your social graph. You can search for your friends’ interests, places they’ve been, and photos. In the new search bar, you can enter a search like “Photos of Madrid, Spain” and similar to Google Image Search, you’ll be shown photos of Spain; however, these will only be photos available to you via your social graph. This means that you can only see photos (people or places) that have been made available to you or that are set as public (in privacy settings, items can be listed as “Only Me”, “Friends”, “Public” etc.).
Besides photos, you can search for interests, things like “TV shows that my friends like” or get even more specific with searches like “TV shows doctors like” or “Music liked by people who like (XYZ)” – (one example given was “Music liked by people who like Barack Obama”). At the event, many examples of how useful this search could be were given, including searches for things like “Languages my friends speak” as well as “Restaurants liked by friends.”
All of Facebook’s existing search features are still available, but this new search feature dives deeper into your graph. It does seem, however, that Facebook has taken into account their ever-popular privacy issue with this new feature. Users will ONLY be able to search what is available to them via their friends’ privacy settings and items that are set as Public. When Graph Search is enabled, a home screen prompt will let you review all your activity (and privacy settings) before launching.
Graph Search is still in Beta testing (you can sign up for the waiting list on www.facebook.com/graphsearch) and Facebook says they have years of work ahead of them to incorporate all the items in the Facebook sphere. For those items that Facebook has yet to index, Microsoft’s Bing will help fill in the blanks.
In the end, I think this is great for Facebook and I’m very interested to try it. Yes, there will be many grumblings about privacy, but I think this new search feature seems to embrace what social media is all about: sharing with friends and discovering new ideas from people you already know and trust.
For a more complete overview of Facebook’s media event, check out The Verge’s event feed.