So we’ve all been waiting eagerly – well, kind of – to find out what Facebook’s big new announcement will be this evening and, like many predicted, the social network has added a new smart search engine called Graph Search.
Yep it sounds a bit like some mathematics term we probably should all remember from Secondary School, but in actual fact it’s a way of sifting through the data about photos, people and connections that live on facebook.com.
The new search feature will appear as a big search bar at the top of each page you visit. You’ll be able to start new searches and will then be served up data under that title, so the Facebook team use the example of “people who like things I like”. You’ll then have a page with that title at the top and a list of people who into the same stuff as you.
Once Graph Search is up and running, you’ll be able to use it to find data about four distinct things, people, photos, places and interests. Over on the Facebook Newsroom the team outline the kinds of searches you’ll make to find each type:
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”
It’s not the big web search competitor some were speculating about earlier today and the team are keen to point out the differences:
“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.”
Facebook users just love to constantly use the site then whine about how it’s not private or secure enough and it’s clear the team have already prepared for that kind of criticism by pointing out that Graph Search has been built “with privacy in mind” and no matter what you search for the privacy and settings of each separate piece of content will be respected.
There have been mixed reactions to the news so far, with many wondering why a network that’s dedicated to connecting you with people you know is suddenly so concerned with helping you find new people. Some of the searches certainly do seem a bit like a creepy dating tool and social media is sleazy enough without an added way for scumbags to find us. However, when it comes to helping you find out more about your friends then it seems like a good idea. We think.
Obviously social media land is already speculating about what the news means for businesses, as searches that are concerned with pages were mentioned at the event, like “sushi restaurants that my friends have been to in Los Angeles”, which could open up places, events and brands to an even wider audience.
Read the official Graph Search post over on the Facebook Newsroom. You can sign up to the beta version of Graph Search here: facebook.com/about/graphsearch.