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Facebook’s Big Reveal? Graph Search



facebook graphAbout a week ago, Facebook teased the press with the announcement of an upcoming announcement. Many thought it would be the Facebook phone that they keep denying they’re making.

It wasn’t the phone. It was a new discovery engine they call Graph Search.

The “graph” is what Facebook calls the complex set of data and data relationships that are the basis for the network. Graph Search is the ability to search that data according to relationship.

On the lowest level it goes like this:

Instead of searching “trail running” as people other than me might do in a traditional search, a Graph Search query would be “My friends who like trail running.”

This expands to a larger set if you go with “People near me who like trail running,” or a smaller subset with “software engineers who like trail running.”

This whole “trail running” scenario comes straight out of the intro video which features an inordinate number of references to outdoor activities. “Who like road trips?” “What National Parks have my friends visited.” Even the query for “which of my friends love to dance” returns people dancing outdoors.

I get that there are all kinds of people in this world, but I’d guess that a large portion of Facebook users only step outside to go the Starbucks on the corner. But if they like to picture their users spinning around on a flying-chair carnival ride, I’ll let them have their fantasy.

Initially, Graph Search will feature four areas:

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”

Once you start playing with the combinations it turns into a fun, new game. Look at this result: Photos of my friends before 1999. (Not MY friends, but the friends of the PR person who wrote the blog post.)

Facebook search 2

Let’s talk privacy. Facebook assures us that Graph Search only reveals information you could have found on your own. So, either totally public or friends only from your friends.

Right now, my mind is blown. I can’t even conceive of what it would take to find a data point, match it to subset, filter out anything that isn’t available to the specific searcher then present. Incredible.

Here’s a look at the typical results page:

Facebook Search 1

For marketers, this could be a sweet deal because Graph Search also works as a recommendation engine. “Restaurants in Los Angeles liked by my friends.” (Oh, I can hear the grammar police coming!) “Bands liked by people my age.” “Books read by entrepreneurs.” The fact that the engine returns product and place results is huge.

Graph Search is in beta mode, which means you probably can’t use it yet. You can go to this page and put your name on a waiting list. I’m excited by the concept but I won’t start jumping up and down until I see it in action.

What do you think of Graph Search?

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