Tag Archives: Personalized Search

A Radical New Way To Look At Facebook

Matt Buchanan of the New Yorker Elements blog writes:

Graph Search will eventually index virtually all of the content on Facebook—every link that’s ever been posted, every status update, every piece of data that outside Web sites have shared with Facebook through its Open Graph program—but what users will get starting today is fairly limited in its scope, restricted to searches of photos, people, places, and interests. It doesn’t work on mobile yet, either. And it is ultimately limited by the kind of information that people share on Facebook. But it is already a powerful tool for excavating information that would otherwise go unnoticed, and for spotting previously undiscovered patterns.

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On Facebook, News Feed Ads That Track You

“These ads take into account people’s browsing behavior outside Facebook, as captured through cookies, with the aim of offering up messages about products they’ve already shown interest in,” writes Jennifer Van Grove of CNET.

Personalized advertising based on one’s Web browsing isn’t new, but this marks the first time Facebook has allowed advertisers to market their products directly on News Feed. (Prior to Tuesday, advertisers were only permitted to display these ads on the rightsize column of the site.)

As Van Grove notes, these types of ads are extremely valuable to merchants; they know that the products they’re pushing are the same ones you’ve been browsing and they can determine, with precision, whether you follow the link and make the purchase.

The tricky part for Facebook though, is not further alienating its users. Van Grove, and the analyst she quotes, use words like “creepy” and “jarring” to describe the feeling that consumers might have as they come upon their ad-augmented News Feed.

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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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