Tag Archives: Search

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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Check Ins Are For High Schoolers, Pussy Whipped Boyfriends, And For The Old Foursquare… What’s The Future Foursquare?

Think for a moment on the concept of “checking-in.”  “Call me when you land!” mom says.  “Let me know when you’re on the road,” your girlfriend commands.  “Text me when you get there,” you’re annoying, psuedo-friend from college begs, because he knows that you’ll inevitably flake, but it doesn’t really matter because you’ll just say “sorry, I was totally smashed” the next time you run into him.

Most view these kinds of check ins as cumbersome chores, annoying reminders that your tab is being kept, that your leash, however long and unseen, is still snugly fastened.

I used to think foursquare was a horribly shitty, pointless app.  I used to think that their kinds of check ins involved vexing friction like calling dad after his 3rd “Are U OK? I miss you” guilt-text.  But it seems that the company wants to head in a different direction: One in which your phone, and its GPS technology, becomes a passive, ambient, knowing-guide to your social life.

While foursquare’s 25 million users continue to check in, the discovery company’s co-founder and CEO, Dennis Crowley, sees a trend in the way new users interact with the service. In an interview with Om Malik of GigaOm, Crowley talks about a future for foursquare.  Where the companies initial user base actively checked into restaurants, bars and coffee shops, many new users sign up with no intention of checking into establishments.  Instead, these people utilize foursquare as a guide to their local social scene. Where’s a good sandwich place around here? What bar is gonna be crazy tonight? Which bookstore did my roommate recommend?

With over 2.5 billion check ins already logged, Crowley believes that many people simply want to “consume” the reviews of their friends rather than checking in and creating their own.

Moving from active usage, explicitly stating to the digital public where you are and what you thought of a particular steakhouse, Crowley believes future foursquare will be a passive, ambient service, like your phone unobtrusively suggesting a sushi place that your girls love.  Or, you’d receive notice of a hilarious happy hour special because your foursquare knows, from previous experience, that you are a self-sabotaging, Jager-bombing binge drinker.

Alluding to Harry’s Potter’s, Marauder’s Map, the GPS geek complains about the sad state of map apps.  They are blank, Crowley says.  You are a pathetic, lonesome dot.  Why not populate a map with many other dots representing your friends?  You could see where the bros are draining Sunday pitchers, what club all the high heels are click-clacking towards.

Foursquare wants to become a hyper specific search and discovery tool, an app that uses your  friends’ taste (your trust) to become “contextually aware” of your preferences.  The company could be your silent cartographer, your local search engine who knows, without you saying, just where you want go.

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I’m upping my Internet game.  If you enjoyed my style come feast on my tweets.  @PlanetHozz

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Regulating Search: Google, Frommer’s And The FTC

L. Gordon Crovitz writes in the WSJ

After Google acquired the travel guide company, Frommer’s, watchdog groups and the “Fairsearch.org consortium of competitors to Google” are calling on the FTC to invoke anti-trust regulations on the search giant.  Rather than direct users to the full array of travel sites, opponents of the acquisition believe Google will unfairly redirect traffic to its new company.

From Google’s perspective this acquisition of branded content (a trusted travel guide) will improve the search experience for users.  Instead of handing over a lengthy list of travel guides, a list that would need sifting and researching, Google will feature it’s own content from Frommer’s, saving users the time and work needed to wade through daunting search results.  (Google has also recently acquired Zagat, the restaurant guide).

Crovitz notes that antitrust policies are meant to produce the best consumer experience and not necessarily to shield competitors from the acquisitions of companies like Google.

If the FTC acts on on this acquisition it would overturn its own 2003 agreement that the Commission would not seek “disgorgement of profits as a remedy for alleged violations.” The FTC would hit Google with financial penalties and send a discouraging signal to technology companies.

Crovitz sees this as a rising trend with Silicon Valley and Washington, where companies “substitute lobbying for competition.”

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