Facebook launches Graph Search and injects search into social

Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook's

So Facebook’s big, and much speculated announcement, isn’t a search engine to rival Google as such, but it does involve search. It is social search and it does up the battle with Google as Facebook tries to bring the essence of search to social networking. What it doesn’t do is challenge Google’s control of the search engine market and the huge revenue stream that represents.

What Facebook announced, at its press conference at its Menlo Park headquarters, is something called Facebook Graph Search. It will allow users to search their network for photos, people, interests and places.

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook Graph Search was the third pillar of Facebook.

He said: “We have the social network, now we can truly search it.”

Zuckerberg said Graph Search was “a completely new way to get information on Facebook”. He said Facebook was “giving people the power and the tools to take any cut of the graph that they want and make any query they want”.

He said the graph “is really big and constantly changing” as we all expanded our networks and interests.

“There are so many people on Facebook, you can get a really good signal really quickly,” he added.

Zuckerberg made a point of underscoring privacy issues relating to Facebook Graph Search, showing that Facebook was learning to be sensitive to this. He said Facebook Graph Search was “privacy aware” and that “you can only search for content that has been shared with you”.

Put simply, Graph Search only allows you to search in your own network.

Zuckerberg said the difference between web search and Facebook Graph Search was that “Graph search is designed to take a precise query and return to you the answer”.

He gave an example, saying users should in theory be able to ask Facebook who were their friends who lived in San Francisco and the Graph Search should be able to return the answer.

Like Google Instant, Facebook Graph Search will work dynamically. As a user types in queries, the engine begins to pull results in as a user types.

Zuckerberg said: “We came up with something we thought would be a lot more natural.”

The way it will work is that if you’re looking for people who for instance play softball in your local area, Facebook Graph Search will show you people who qualify in your network.

Facebook says that Graph Search will appear as a bigger search bar at the top of each page. When you start typing to search for something, it will make suggestions of searches you’re looking to perform and once you select the search it will return results on a page that you can further customize and filter (for things like specific timeframes).

“Unlike web search, every piece of content on Facebook has its own audience based on privacy settings. Graph Search is built with that in mind and honours the privacy and audience of each piece of content on Facebook,” Facebook says.

As previously mentioned, it will have four main areas: photos, people, interests and places.

People includes, for example:  “friends who live in my city”; “people from my hometown who like hiking”; “friends of friends who have been to Yosemite National Park”; “software engineers who live in San Francisco and like skiing”; “people who like things I like”; “people who like tennis and live nearby”.

Photos examples include: “photos I like”; “photos of my family”; “photos of my friends before 1999”; “photos of my friends taken in New York”; “photos of the Eiffel Tower”.

Places examples include: “restaurants in San Francisco”; “cities visited by my family”; “Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India”; “tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends”; “restaurants in New York liked by chefs”; “countries my friends have visited”.

Interests examples include: “music my friends like”; “movies liked by people who like movies I like”; “languages my friends speak”; “strategy games played by friends of my friends”; “movies liked by people who are film directors”; “books read by CEOs”.

Facebook says the Graph Search beta starts today. Users can go to www.facebook.com/graphsearch to get on the waiting list.

It also says the roll out is going to be slow, so it can see how people use Graph Search and make improvements as it develops.

Robin Grant, global managing director of We Are Social, says the impact of Graph Search will initially be small.

“It seems that this is a product that has been built without any reference to user need. At the moment it offers little real utility, and requires a massive change in behaviour for people to start using it. As a result it’s likely to flop initially, just like Wolfram|Alpha did on launch.

“Its only real use at the moment is when you want to find out about things about friends of friends, and then use your mutual friend as an introduction – “friends of friends who are single and live in London” or “friends of friends who work in marketing at Google” – which, let’s face it, is not that often,” says Grant.

Andreas Pouros, COO at digital marketing agency, Greenlight, said that while Graph Search was innovative and powerful, it was unlikely to be enough to allay investor concerns over Facebook’s commercial focus.

He said: “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 investors will suspect that it’s too little progress.”

Social SEO

Damian Routley, CEO of Glow, one of Facebook’s Strategic Preferred Marketing Development Partners, said: “From a marketing perspective, I would recommend that brands start to optimise their site, page and app, for social as ‘social SEO’ will become key in preparation for the wider roll out and inevitable paid search offering that will follow.

“Further to this, those companies that have a close integration on the Facebook platform will overtake those who keep it at arm’s length. It’s also likely that Facebook will give a preference to those companies that have this integration purely because the quality of information feeding the engine is better – and this means a better service for the user.”

Graph Search for Journalists

Facebook says the new tool will also make it easier for journalists to discover potential sources and public photos around stories they’re reporting. It will also make it easier to learn about places and interests that are not only tied to friends, but also public figures and pages.

This focus at the announcement makes it clear that it is watching Twitter and does not want its social media rival to steal the news crown. It wants to show that it is relevant in this area and it is doing that by showing what Facebook can offer journalists and those interested in the media more widely.

A “Rolodex” of 1 Billion Potential Sources

Facebook says the new search will allow journalists to do richer searches when trying to find an expert for a story.

A Facebook statement said: “For example, say you’re doing a story on a specific company and you’re looking to interview someone who works at the company in their New York office. You could do this by searching for ‘People who work at ACME Inc in New York’, to find potential employees to reach out to.

“You could even make the search more specific to find people who work at the company with a specific title, for example. This could make it easier to find potential sources and experts to reach out to for stories you’re working on.”

It says this will also make it easier for people to discover journalists on Facebook. For example, if users want to find potential journalists to follow on Facebook, they could simply type in “journalists” to find people or pages that fall into this category and by selecting people, they will see anyone who has a journalist-related public title on their Facebook profile and if they have Follow enabled, users will be able to keep up with the relevant public updates in their News Feed.

Finding Photos by Location or Topic

With more than 240 billion photos on Facebook, Graph Search is designed to make it easier to find public photos and filter the results, such as finding photos posted within a specific location (with as broad range as photos within a city, to photos posted at a specific landmark based on location tags from users).

For journalists, this could serve as a tool during breaking news situations or even be used to conduct research about a location to get a sense of what it appears like visually.

For instance during the 2012 London Olympics, many people were sharing photos from the Games. A journalist covering the story would be able to do custom search (i.e. “photos taken at Olympic Park”) to find photos uploaded within a specific area, and reach out to potential sources and, if they provide permission, include their photos in the story.

Discovering Connections Through Interests

Graph Search also enables users to conduct searches based on people’s connections to interests on Facebook. For example, one could conduct a search to find “books liked by journalists” on Facebook.

This will show a set of some of the commonly liked books by people who include journalist-related titles in their job description. Journalists could use the interest-based searches to gain insights about trends. For example, users can do searches such as “movies liked by people who are film directors” or “books read by CEOs”.

Here is the full announcement from Facebook — Press release

Today we’re announcing a new way to navigate these connections and make them more useful. We’re calling it Graph Search, and it starts today with a limited preview, or beta.

When Facebook first launched, the main way most people used the site was to browse around, learn about people and make new connections. Graph Search takes us back to our roots and allows people to use the graph to make new connections.

Graph Search

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

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. We believe they have very different uses.

Another big difference from web search is that every piece of content on Facebook has its own audience, and most content isn’t public. We’ve built Graph Search from the start with privacy in mind, and it respects the privacy and audience of each piece of content on Facebook. It makes finding new things much easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook.

We’re very early in the development of Graph Search. It’s only available in English today and you can search for only a subset of content on Facebook. Posts and Open Graph actions (for example, song listens) are not yet available. We’ll be working on these things over the coming months.

The first version of Graph Search focuses on four main areas — people, photos, places, and interests.

People: “friends who live in my city,” “people from my hometown who like hiking,” “friends of friends who have been to Yosemite National Park,” “software engineers who live in San Francisco and like skiing,” “people who like things I like,” “people who like tennis and live nearby”

Photos: “photos I like,” “photos of my family,” “photos of my friends before 1999,” “photos of my friends taken in New York,” “photos of the Eiffel Tower”

Places: “restaurants in San Francisco,” “cities visited by my family,” “Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India,” “tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends,” “restaurants in New York liked by chefs,” “countries my friends have visited”

Interests: “music my friends like,” “movies liked by people who like movies I like,” “languages my friends speak,” “strategy games played by friends of my friends,” “movies liked by people who are film directors,” “books read by CEOs”

Graph Search

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Graph Search?

Graph Search is a new way for you to find people, photos, places and interests that are most relevant to you on Facebook.

What is Graph Search useful for?

Graph Search will help you instantly find others, learn more about them and make connections, explore photos, quickly find places like local attractions and restaurants, and learn about common interests like music, movies, books and more. All results are unique based on the strength of relationships and connections.

What can I search for?

With Graph Search, you can search for people, photos, places and interests.

How do I search?

Type your search into the blue bar at the top of the page. As you start to type, suggestions appear in a drop down. You can refine your search using the tools on the right-hand side of the page.

Some example searches include:
· People who like tennis and live nearby
· Photos before 1990
· Photos of my friends in New York
· Sushi restaurants in Palo Alto my friends have liked
· Tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends

How are you rolling this out?

Graph Search is in a limited preview, or beta. That means Graph Search will only be available to a very small number of people who use Facebook in US English.

How can I get Facebook Graph Search?

You can sign up for the waitlist at www.facebook.com/graphsearch

Does Graph Search change any of my current privacy settings?

No. Graph Search follows your current privacy settings. You can only search for content that has been shared with you.

How do I control what tags, locations and photos can show up about me?

To control tags, photos or posts with locations about you that appear in search, go to your Activity Log.