Searching the Internet has historically been a bit of an awkward experience, where you have to guess the best combination of keywords to find what you’re looking for and it usually takes some time to get it right. Over the past few years, search using Google and Bing has tried to become smarter by trying to interpret the meaning behind your search phrases. For example, typing in ‘Capital of United States’ tells you the answer, a map, some basic information about Washington DC, as well as some points of interests, and then it lists relevant links. While this is a useful step forward, it still fails to understand the meaning of our searches and the relationships that we have that influence our search preferences. Facebook Graph Search is attempting to change that.
Facebook is by far the largest site as far as usage in the world, having north of 1 billion users, most of which are very active. Facebook allows us to express our thoughts, share content with our friends, and define ourselves to our network of friends. This creates an exciting possibility for Facebook to analyze what we share about ourselves and with each other to then provide search results that are truly relevant to us. Questions such as ‘Restaurants my friends have been to in London,’ ‘Photos of my friends in New York,’ and ‘Cities my family has visited’ all are questions that this new Graph Search has the ability to answer. The possibilities for this are endless.
So what’s the downside to this new type of search from Facebook? Well, there are some serious privacy implications. The whole idea behind Graph Search runs on the notion that people are willing to share a large amount of information with their friends, and the public as a whole. Privacy and Facebook has a tumultuous history, and this new Graph Search looks to further strain the privacy relationship with users as Facebook seems to expect that everyone will allow a large amount of their information to be searchable. However, we haven’t actually seen Graph Search or been able to test it so we don’t really know what it’s going to be like. From the videos that Facebook has released for the service, it has great potential to connect our desire to search for places and things with the relationships we all have in our social networks. It remains to be seen if it works out, but given the user Facebook has, this has the opportunity to be the largest advancement search has experienced in the last decade. To check out Facebook Graph Search, go to facebook.com/about/graphsearch