After weeks of speculation Facebook has unveiled it’s mysterious announced. Are you ready? A new, smarter search engine called Graph Search.
What’s Graph Search? Well, Graph Search, according to Facebook bloggers Tom Stocky and Lars Rasmussen, attempts to take users back to the roots of the Internet and enable people to use the graph to make new connections. Graph Search will appear as a bigger search bar at the top of each page. When you search for something, that search not only determines the set of results you get, but also serves as a title for the page. You can edit the title – and in doing so create your own custom view of the content you and your friends have shared on Facebook.
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.
Another difference pointed out by Stocky and Rasmussen from web search is that every piece of content on Facebook has its own audience, and most content isn’t public. Facebook built Graph Search from the start with privacy in mind, and it respects the privacy and audience of each piece of content on Facebook, the two bloggers said.
Andreas Pouros, COO at London-based digital marketing agency, Greenlight said the Facebook announcement is a story of three halves.
On the one hand, users will be very happy to get this new functionality that Facebook is calling ‘Graph Search’. “It is innovative and powerful, and will allow people to search within Facebook, albeit restricted to what they can see and read right now. It allows the user to search across people, places and interests using structured queries, e.g. ‘Friends who like Star Wars and Harry Potter, or more usefully perhaps ‘Which restaurants do my friends like in London,” Pouros said.Ordinarily the user would ask that question by posting it on their wall, now the tools are there to allow the user to just search. Innovative, very cool and the first major addition of functionality Facebook has seen since Timeline, he added.
Pouros went on to say it is unlikely to be enough to allay investor concerns over Facebook’s commercial focus. “Many had expected Facebook would have launched a new mobile phone today or thrown down the gauntlet to Google and challenged the company in Web Search supremacy, neither of which happened. Web Search is a touchy subject as everyone knows that it is a hugely lucrative market, and one Facebook was expected to enter. Graph Search may well be a precursor to that but Pouros fears investors will suspect that it’s too little progress.”
From a business point of view, Pouros said that businesses are likely to become more visible within Facebook given that many of these searches will bring up their pages in Graph Search results.
However, this may simply offset the reduction in visibility brands have experienced due to Facebook’s Promoted Posts mechanism that has limited the exposure of brand posts on user newsfeeds (where businesses are prompted to pay for their post to reach a wider audience). Also, it is unclear at this stage if or how Facebook will monetise Graph Search.
Ultimately, says Pouros, this is progress, which is welcome, but whether this is good for everyone rests on if and how Facebook chooses to monetise this new mechanism, and to what degree it is a stepping stone to a more aggressive product strategy.