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Facebook’s New Search Engine – Graph Search

facebook logoFor some time now there has been speculation about Facebook’s next big plans. On January 15th, drawing the curtains on the company’s next steps, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook’s own search engine, Graph Search. It is expected to take head-on other internet search giants such as Google and Bing. However, Graph Search turns out to be quite different from these other standalone search engines. Graph Search will focus on drawing information from rich social networks on Facebook. Data will be extracted from a user’s friends and friends of friends. Essentially, Facebook will depend on the opinions and knowledge of its one billion user base. Given the popularity of Facebook, a tool such as this has the potential to change the way people search for information.

facebook graph search

Described as the third pillar of Facebook, Graph Search will focus on four areas: people, photos, places and interests. Facebook now has massive and extensive information about different people, places, restaurants, gadgets etc. When a user searches for information such as ‘good restaurant in California’, Graph Search will look for restaurants tried and liked by the user’s friends and their friends. As a result, search results for one person will differ from the search results of another person and will be based on the friends and networks of a user.

If this social search tool turns out to be a hit, Facebook might see an increase in the number of users and this, in turn, could lead to another wave of growth. A better search feature means that users need not leave Facebook for searching answers to a question they might have. Hence, users will spend more time on the site and Facebook will be rewarded with more eyeball time. Increased user activity will encourage advertisers to spend more money on Facebook ads too. Also, Graph Search can help companies do targeted advertising more effectively. However for that to happen, Facebook first needs to prove that Graph Search can popularize the practice of social discovery search.

Graph Search is a new and limited product. It is available in beta version for limited U.S. audiences only and is still in its infancy stage. It has the potential to persuade users to stay more on Facebook and visit it more frequently. This could help revitalize Facebook’s stalled growth in some countries and add fuel to its growth in other places. However, it might be an uphill task. Appropriate results for searches cannot always be found in friends’ opinions and likes, privacy fears have to be addressed and more importantly, great search engines have been built over the years. Facebook can currently use its pool of existing user base to drive this search tool but it might have to add layers of filters and algorithms and refine its services to make its search tool give better results.

Nevertheless, Graph Search is an exciting development in the world of social media and will be followed with great interest in the coming weeks and months.

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