Have you ever actually completed typing a name into the Facebook search bar? If you’re like me, all you’ve ever done is begin typing a few letters from the name of a friend or business, then select them from the dropdown menu. Earlier this week, Facebook announced a new function of it’s search capabilities that will change the way you search on Facebook.
Dubbed “Graph Search,” the new functionality allows users to see results based on content shared by friends. Sample searches performed in demonstrations include “friends who live in San Francisco,” “friends who speak Spanish,” “friends who are single,” and “friends who like (tv show).” Searches can vary from broad to specific, and only information selected to be visible will appear in search results. The graph search is integrated with Bing, which will display general web search results along with the graph search.
With the trend in personalized search results that Google has been shifting towards in the past few years, this update comes as no surprise. Google has had integrated recommendations for search results based on shared information from contacts social streams, and displays who “+1’s” a search result. The Facebook system goes a bit further by relying on semantic searches and user-generated content.
The real long-term gameplan for Facebook, as evidenced with the Bing partnership, is to expand into full-service search advertising, rather than just display ads. It may take a while for users to ditch Google for searching within Facebook, but it’s certainly what the brand is banking on.
In addition to bringing an enhanced revenue source to Facebook, the functionality has many key benefits for users:
- Recommendations from friends – At it’s core, graph search allows users to look for places, photos, interests and people like. With advanced searching skills, you can discover new content or places based on the life experiences shared by connections. You’ll be able to discover a local Indian restaurant that is most liked by people who have lived in India!
- Benefits of third party sites – If you are not already active on Yelp, Linkedin, or online dating sites, the social graph can serve as a one-stop solution to what these (and other) sites provide. Like the previously mentioned Indian restaurant example, you can search for “friends of friends who work at (company x)” and see professional connections to advance your career. You can also search for “friends of friends who are single and like (hobby)” to find someone new to start a relationship with.
- Stronger opportunity for page discovery – For business pages, the social graph allows for a new avenue of discovery even from fans that don’t engage often on Facebook. As long as the settings for search results are open, pages now have the ability to be shown every time a connection of one of their fans searches for pages liked by their friends.
As always, critics of Facebook have described some flaws and downsides to the move. The typical cries of increased opportunities for hackers and scammers to take advantage were made, and privacy advocates expressed concern about what will be shown to whom. The most surprising criticism that I’ve come across comes from CNN Money, which describes Facebook as becoming “the new AOL.”It’s a convincing argument – by offering everything under one roof (messaging, networking, now search), Facebook becomes a walled garden of internet experiences. It may seem like an unsustainable business model, but Facebook has the advantage of learning from the past.
Facebook shares fell some 2.5% to $30.19 following the news on Tuesday on the heaviest volume in two months. Its stock, down another 1.5% on Wednesday, has fallen some 21% since last year’s IPO. The Graph Search announcement did not outline any benefit for its advertisers or investors.