Facebook’s New Social Search

Last week Facebook unveiled it’s newest product, or what Mark Zuckerberg called Facebook’s newest pillar: Graph Search.

Using natural language, users will be able to search within Facebook for things like: “friends who live in Seattle,” or “friends who listen to Kanye.” It’s very similar to how we use Google. The upshot, of course, is that Facebook is filled with all kinds of personal data that is not accessible to Google’s indexing and the wider internet.

Using our “social graph,” Facebook’s nerd language for the online networks we’ve woven together, Zuckerberg and company will offer a personalized search. Rather than use complex algorithms informed by people’s online behavior (like Google), Facebook will run it’s custom query using our friends and jobs, the things we’ve “liked” and the places we’ve been.

As I’ve written before, this is exactly what the new Foursquare is doing.

While many tech observers see “social,” “local,” or “personalized,” as the future of search engines, there are reasons to avoid the quick embrace. For starters, Google works pretty damn well. Secondly, if I’m looking to a trustworthy friend to recommend a restaurant or a mechanic, wouldn’t I just text that person?

Another issue mentioned by many reporters is that most people don’t use Facebook or Foursquare the way power users do. So while, in theory, a personalized social search may be more valuable to me it’s also a lot more limited in scope. How many of your friends actually rate their music and movies and then post online? (Usually it’s just that crazy handful of people who blow up your news feed.)

Facebook’s promo vid makes this kind of information culling look like an enriching experience. While I’m very skeptical, I’ll wait for the roll out before I become a full on naysayer.

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4 thoughts on “Facebook’s New Social Search

  1. Suraj says:

    1) “if I’m looking to a trustworthy friend to recommend a restaurant or a mechanic, wouldn’t I just text that person?”

    I think the value of Foursquare (and other forms of social search) is not just that one person recommends it but multiple people do. For example, if there is a restaurant that 5 or 6 of my friends have checked in to on foursquare, I know it’s probably a place worth checking out (especially if a few of them have checked in multiple times).

    Similarly, if 20 of my friends post about or like Homeland, maybe it’s time to pony up $16 and get Showtime (or just stream it online).

    2) “that crazy handful of people who blow up your news feed”

    That is you on Facebook.

    • Hozz says:

      Suraj, your first point makes a lot of sense. Whenever we’re with you in New York City, you always have a good restaurant or bar in mind, and I’m pretty sure you get your recommendations from Foursquare. So, instead of viewing social search as “what did Jason think of this breakfast place?” a better way to look at it is: where are many of my friends recommending I eat breakfast?

      And yes, your second point is even more true. Facebook is the new Twitter.

  2. Social CRM says:

    Social graph sounds really cool idea but i think it is long way to go before will start making any sense for both consumers and businesses! till then Google will keep its supremacy on search via youtube, google map and web search!

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