Facebook takes its hunt for success one step further with Graph Search
Facebook today unveiled a new tool to help you connect with your friends, titled Graph Search. ”This is not keyword search”, the CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, noted at the event Tuesday morning. He continued, ”We don’t think a lot of people will come to Facebook to do web searches, but if we can’t find what you’re looking for, it’s good to have this.” Zuckerberg’s aim is to keep search local, discouraging users from heading to Google for quick searches like a TV show’s Facebook page. That’s not all the CEO wants this new tool to do, though.
The Facebook “mission” has always been “to make the world more open and connected”. As the company has evolved over the years, it has become less focused on users and more on monetization, as Ellis Hamburger of The Verge wrote about in an editorial yesterday. The social network has become increasingly impersonal in the past years, with the only major changes being the addition of an IPO and the Open Graph, which further enables developers to build their pages for the “Facebook look”. All these changes have been good and well, but it’s unclear whether or not the company means its users well. Graph Search may be a step in the right direction.
This new feature allows users to find friends easier, narrow the search to people who like certain things, add the company they work for, and even check the weather near you — all without filter fields. Instead of adding extra buttons and complex tools, the developers have built Graph Search with an algorithm that pulls facts from the text you enter into the search field. To that end, you can type in something like “friends that like The Fray” and you’ll be shown a list of your friends that have liked that band’s page. Of course, there are more advanced uses Graph Search. You can, for instance, type in “music liked by people who like Barack Obama”, which was a sample query fulfilled during the keynote.
As many Apple fans would put it, Graph Search is very similar to Siri, yet you have to type things instead of saying them — unless you have dictation switched on. Its goal is to challenge Google, because too many people resort to the search engine giant rather than staying on Facebook. By allowing users to search for places, people, photos, and interests (the four current categories), Graph Search will take on services like Foursquare and Google’s array of alternatives in its effort to be the number one search engine you use.
Graph Search launches in beta today, though the company warns it “will only be available to a very small number of people who use Facebook in US English.” If you’re ambitious, you can sign up for the wait-list on the official Facebook page. Otherwise — as usual in Facebook’s case — an actual release date it unknown.
Unfortunately, with all its promise, Graph Search only furthers the issue of personal interaction that Facebook should have with its users. Right now, there is very little. Today’s event was an opportunity for the company to rekindle that relationship, but it instead took the route with money in it. Facebook will now be partnering with Bing to make its search as good as possible; it is unlikely the “tool” will ever become a competitor to Google.