at a press conference last tuesday facebook introduced a completely overhauled search: the new facebook ‘graph search’. below we’ll explore what the most important elements are and what it means for facebook users.
how does facebook graph search work?
facebook’s new search allows users to browse facebook data using it’s so-called social graphs. however, it will only consider data for which the user already permission to view – this should guarantee comprehensive privacy. naturally, one of facebook user’s longest running and biggest concern.
search is based on simple semantics, to make it as intuitive as possible for the user. for example, the user simply asks facebook to show all “friends who live in my hometown” and one promptly gets the results delivered. currently, five different areas are covered by the new graph search:
- people: e.g. “People who live nearby and like to play soccer,” “Friends who were at Yellowstone National Park”, “people from my hometown who enjoy walking,” …
- photos: e.g. “photos of my friends before 1999”, “photos of the eiffel tower”, “photos taken in new york”, “photos that i like,” …
- places: e.g. “restaurants in tampa”, “sights in italy, that my friends have visted”, “countries that my friends have visited,” …
- interests: e.g. “films that my friends like,” “music, that is liked by people who like the same music I like,” “books, that a ceo has read” …
- web search on bing: “web search …”
search results with the new facebook graph search
the presentation of search results depends on the topic searched for. thus, if a place is searched for logically a map appears and if people are searched for profile information is shown. but all results have something in common: facebook ranks the results based on relevance. so, for photos this means the ones with the most likes and comments are shown first.
users also has the option of narrowing down search results further for example by sex, employer or hometown.
interesting side note: so far there is no sign of advertising on the search results pages, but there is definitely room for it. so it is definitely only a matter of time before ads start popping up here.
graph search is different from normal web searches and google just by the way the results are highly personalized. there are no standard results or rankings in facebook the way there are in google – each results page is unique depending on the user and thus can not be reproduced for other users. this has been of course been attempted by google which personal results but has never actually happened to this extent.
facebook is clearly spicing up it’s very weak search functionality with the graph search and the overall “facebook experience” will be significantly improved by this new feature. plus, it gives facebook a new potential revenue stream to rival google’s adwords ppc offering and get additional ad money. we know that facebook is indirectly going after google with this announcement. while it may never replace google as the starting point of people’s web usage it may very well keep people on facebook longer.
facebook created a mini site all about the new graph search: introducing social graph. here you can find explanatory videos, case studies and have the opportunity to put yourself on the waiting list for beta access. the actual roll-out has not officially been announced yet, but looking at other facebook products it can drag on for weeks or months.
update: tips for facebook graph search optimization
last week christoper s. penn put together a quick article with five tips for facebook graph search optimization – which is sure to become a thing soon. it will be interesting to see if “facebook seo” will soon become an industry term and what we now call seo will eventually become “traditional seo”. in fact, here is a post from danny sullivan on his website that goes over how the new facebook search is different & unique from google search.
all photos courtesy of facebook.com