Move over, Google: Facebook’s “Graph Search,” announced at a Jan. 15 press event, allows users to search the massive social network for posts, photos, friends (and friends of friends), and other content.
Although users can sign up for a limited beta, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seemed to imply that his company would limit the number of users for the near term. He also described the work as a “beta of a version 1” product, which will be rolled out to “hundreds, or thousands” of people: “The better it goes, the faster everything it will go.”
Indexing the entire database of Facebook content will take quite some time, Zuckerberg added: “I just want to make sure people understand that this is a beta… I think we know our roadmap for years to come.” On the to-do list: mobile, Instagram photos, the Social Graph, plus other languages and regions. “We’re pretty confident from feedback we’ve gotten that this will be a useful for a lot of folks.”
Using natural language, people will be able to search within four different topics: people, photos, places, and interests. Even those limited amount of categories offer great diversity of queries, from dating to recruitment—“Friends of friends who are single live in San Francisco and are from India,” for example, or, “TV shows that software engineers like.”
Facebook has been trying to institute a social element to search for many years; the company has a partnership with Microsoft’s Bing search engine, where users searching on Bing can ask their Facebook friends for advice and see what they’ve recommended. Under the new Graph Search interface, any query that Facebook can’t handle will be returned by Bing, such as a query for “weather in Menlo Park.” Microsoft representatives didn’t immediately return requests for comment.
Stung by users who rebelled against Facebook’s previous privacy policies (say that three times fast), Facebook executives made it clear that the only content that would be indexed on Graph Search would be content that users had made public. Still, that also means that millions of random people could be able to see “photos of friends at the beach” or other queries.
A photo that a user makes available to his circle of freinds will be discoverable via Graph Search, but only by those friends. Removing a photo and making it private will instantly make those photos private as well, executives promised. Zuckerberg also suggested that users who move to the new Graph Search interface will be asked to review their content to see which posts, likes, and photos would be searchable by others. While users can’t manually remove photos that others take, they can automatically send the other person an automated note, which also un-tags the person in the photo.
Zuckerberg said that this last aspect had proven to be a stumbling block with Google, the world’s largest search provider.
Image: Mark Hachman