Is Facebook taking on Google with Graph Search? Not really

Facebook has announced the new search engine on its social networking website, making search results more relevant to you on a social scale. Data accumulated from user profiles over the years make results closer to you and your friend's circle.

Published Date
16 - Jan - 2013
| Last Updated
16 - Jan - 2013
Is Facebook taking on Google with Graph Search? Not really

This is exactly why we say – do not believe the rumour mills on the World Wide Web. Because the same mill would have had you convinced that a Facebook phone was the next big thing, and would be unveiled to the world at Facebook’s event. However, what we have is something that could potentially change the way we use web search. It is called Graph Search, and it brings in the social relevance angle to search results, which were otherwise missing till now.

Launched in the beta version at the moment, Graph Search is available to a limited bunch of users, and will be rolled out slowly across the board. The Graph Search results focus on four core points – people, places, photos and interests. Facebook can easily create these results after it spent quite a few years urging users to upload information, interests and photographs to their profile online. You can sign up for the new Graph Search from here.

People Search: The premise of the search works on both types of queries – direct and general. An example given by Facebook is “people named Chris who are friends of Lars and went to Stanford”. Immediately, you are directed to results of all friends of Lars who are named Chris, and have registered Stanford as a place of education, work etc. This is an example of a direct search. Alternatively, you could do a generic search like “My Friends who live in New Delhi”.

Who should be scared: The generic reaction to this is “Google should be scared”. We cannot understand why, simply because when people search for something on Google, they are not looking at results related to their social circle particularly. We believe the two products – Google Search and Facebook Graph will exist side by side, with no overlap between the two for the most part.

Interest Search: Apart from direct people related search, you could search for interests that you may have. There are examples like “music my friends like” or “my friends who watch BBC Top Gear”.

Who should be scared: Again, this is not something that Google had claimed to do till now, but should rather start doing with the Google network. Again, at the moment, we do not see Google and Facebook at loggerheads, at least for the time being. Google still has time because to implement this properly, because user search habits will not change overnight. They will still use Google, and if interest search results from Google satisfy users, they may not bother re-searching.

Photo Search: Apart from the people search, the photo search is feature is surely going to see the privacy brigade go up in arms. Search phrases like “photos of friends at Hard Rock Café” or a more precise “Disha’s photos in Paris”.

Who should be scared: Google must be worried. Photographs uploaded on Facebook will be found on Facebook, like they always have been. With Graph Search, the process is more varied in terms of how you search and more streamlined in terms of the results that you get. However, this does make it harder for Google to convince people to also make the effort of uploading the same picture on Google . If the users are convinced that Facebook is the place where the entire social circle is uploading pictures, then Google basically has a steep incline it needs to attempt at climbing.

Location Search: If you happen to be travelling to a city you do not know a lot about, you could search for “bars in Liverpool liked by people who live in Liverpool”. This lets you get local information on places that the people living in the area have checked out.

Who should be scared: Okay, this is something that could worry the likes of Foursquare and TripAdvisor, because localized ratings, reviews and knowledge about places is what they bank on. If Facebook is getting people to check-in and comment on the places they have visited is directly aiming for the heads of the above-mentioned networks, with Clint Eastwood at the trigger!

With Graph Search, Facebook has made an honest attempt at making the search results more precise and relevant. With more than a billion people on the network, the chances of most of your friends being there are quite high.

Interestingly, Facebook has tied up with Microsoft to provide Bing search results for the queries it may not have answers to. “We have a great partnership with the team at Microsoft,” Zuckerberg says. “We continue to work with Microsoft to make web search better with social signals.” However, the way the Graph Search is designed, there may not really be many case scenarios when Facebook may be left grappling for answers. Except if you are looking for the weather forecast for the next five days.

The Graph Search is currently in beta and is available once you sign up and register your intent to be on the waiting list. If you are the very patient kinds, you can wait for the inevitable rollout for all users not too far down the line. Read more about Facebook's Graph Search here.

Vishal MathurVishal Mathur