What Is Facebook Graph Search?

Facebook's big announcement today was Graph Search. It's a deeply important step for Facebook. It's also unlike other search systems out there and adds a bunch of new ways to use Facebook. Here's how it works.

Graph Search is way to sort through Facebook...

The first thing to note is that Graph Search is "not web search", as Facebook puts it. It's not where you go to find Wikipedia links, song lyrics or anything like that. It's a way to access information and people and things that are already on Facebook. Specifically, it's for finding things that have been shared on Open Graph, which is the feature of Facebook that shares apps you use, photos you comment on and music you listen to with the world at large.

...that will also give you web search results...

Naturally, not everything you type into the Graph Search field will be on Facebook. So if Facebook has no idea what to do with your search terms, it will display results from Bing (which is actually not bad for pure search). Big news for Bing, mildly bad news for Google. The more notable part for Google is that Graph Search is organising information that Google can't get at and the type of information that it has largely failed to get through Google+.

...focusing on four main areas.

Graph Search is centred around finding four types of things: People, Photos, Places and Interests. You can find, to use Facebook's example, TV shows that are watched by doctors, or apps that are used by friends of friends. Or doctors liked by other doctors. Or photos of dogs from your female friends who live in Brisbane. Literally anything in the Facebook universe that's connected in a way that you are or want to be connected. It sounds pretty simple at first blush, but it's actually a pretty clever way to use all of the social information that Facebook's collected.

It works somewhat like a dating website...

The way you sort through stuff is deeply reminiscent of how you would sort through a traditional dating website. "Single women who live within 25km of me with blonde hair and average body types and who like cats" is now more or less something you can type into Facebook's Graph Search and get a real response. It would probably look like "Friends of My Friends who are Single and Live in My City and Female and like Cats". You type a sentence into the Graph Search bar that has a series of filters, like either of the above examples, and Graph Search will give you suggested searches.

...that has the potential to be a crazy powerful stalker tool...

Obviously, Facebook is talking about its privacy advancements, like Privacy Shortcuts from a few weeks ago. But the fact remains that this is going to be a hugely powerful way to be creepy on Facebook. You can already accomplish that pretty easily, but merging the powers of a recruiting service and dating website with your real life friends and acquaintances is going to have some unexpected side effects.

...and will be hugely more powerful in the future.

Maybe the biggest thing to know about Graph Search is that it's going to grow hand-in-hand with Open Graph. Facebook says that everything shared in Open Graph will eventually be available for search in Graph Search, meaning every like, post, comment, Spotify song listened to, movie watched — all of it will be available to be searched, filtered and viewed by people using Graph Search.


Comments

    I have yet to see a single example search I would actually use.
    TV shows that are watched by doctors - pass
    Apps that are used by friends of friends - pass
    Mexican restaurant most visited by my friends - pass
    Photos of dogs from your female friends who live in Brisbane - Oh god, pass, pass, pass

    Can I please just have a thing that searches through *my own wall* for stuff in old posts? That seems like a no-brainer feature that everyone would find useful, and I don't understand why it hasn't happened yet.

      Yes! Too often I find myself scrolling further and further down the rabbit hole looking for a number or a recipe that someone left on my wall and coming up blank. Even if you could put filters on your timeline to display all posts made by a particular friend within a set period of time or just ever. That might actually come in handy!

    Yet another feature Google Plus has had since inception.. It would seem Facebook is getting more like Apple each day.

    I'd honestly prefer the ability to search my past posts for links and such than something like this.

    Not sure if I or anyone of my friends will have any use for it because most people go to the google teat to find basic info on things.

    Wow. Technically speaking this is quite an achievement. I'd be very interested to see the setup that allows this kind of searching by anyone, on-demand. I know Facebook utilise Hbase (or Hbase like technologies) but that is for a limited part of their functionality like their instant messaging.

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