By: Nate Evans
Facebook made big waves last week by announcing its first new product in seven years: Graph Search. Business Insider points out that Graph Search is a terrible name, while Facebook is quick to reassure wary users that Graph Search still respects existing privacy settings. While proponents and critics alike are all abuzz with what this means--or doesn't mean--for Facebook users, one thing is certain: no one really seems to know what to do with Graph Search.
So, let's start with the surface--what does Graph Search do? As it currently exists, Graph Search expands the previous Facebook search. Before, you could search for people, places, or things (organizations, groups, etc). Now, however, you can get much more specific. Facebook's examples of what can be searched for with Graph Search include: "tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends" or the slightly more stalkerish suggestion of finding a gym buddy through Facebook--just search "People in my hometown who exercise." I've already worked out my totally uncreepy approach:
"Hi there. I was looking through facebook for a suitable workout partner and came across you. Judging by your profile picture, interest in exercise, and the fact that you "liked" Better Off Ted, I think we should hit the gym together. Thoughts?"
Most business minds have good things to say about Graph Search though. As Forbes Magazine points out, you could use this type of search product to ask the limitless mind of the Internet: "Who do I know in Pasadena that has worked on [a] project with some success, know about this particular industry, is available to talk between Tuesday and Wednesday that I am there, and has the ability to deliver in following weeks?"
Granted, this type of in-depth commercial searching only works if you can convince the majority of Facebook's 845,000,000 users to publicize all their work-related information online. Supposing a person is okay with sharing that information, it's probably already on LinkedIn.
And there lies the real genius behind Graph Search: it subverts the need for the rest of the Internet. Instead of perusing Netflix for recommendations, you can now Graph Search: "Favorite shows of friends who liked Downton Abbey." Instead of trying Craigslist local musicians--or gym buddies--just Graph Search them. With Graph Search, Facebook is setting itself up to become a one-stop shop for all things cyber and therein is striking a blow against The Rest of the Internet (henceforth referred to as Google).
Graph Search currently does no targeted advertising, but that could change. If it does, then you can start searching for "dentists in my hometown who do root canals" or "ice cream places open after 11pm in my city" on Facebook. This is where Tim the Enchanter pipes up and says "It IS the rabbit!" Google is surely sitting upright in their collective chairs and realizing that they now potentially have another serious contender in the King-of-the-Internet-Hill game--and one that already has a huge user base and popular following.
While "social networking" has previously been thought of as just looking for old friends or sharing statuses and funny memes, Graph Search expands that term to mean any type of social interaction. Ostensibly, Graph Search could operate as a dating service, job finder, white pages, AND give you a good list of "Italian restaurants in my current location" to go to tonight. It really is all your favorite websites rolled into one.
Graph Search is still in beta mode, but you can sign up to be a tester (however, there is already a waiting list of hopefuls doing the cyber equivalent of rocking from foot to foot with their hand in the air saying "Pick me! Pick ME!").
With Graph Search, Facebook has gone from a cuddly bunny in the eyes of search engines to a killer, no-limits threat with fangs. If you still haven't gotten the reference, you can Google it.
Or Graph Search it.