Facebook scheduled a special media event for January 15, further fueling speculation that it will finally unveil its first piece of hardware, the Facebook smartphone that so many rumors were talking about in the not-so-distant past.
But as it turns out, the Facebook smartphone remains an unicorn product for now, although we shouldn’t be surprised to see Facebook actually build such a device in the future – truth be told though, the company doesn’t really need a Facebook handset since it’s pretty much present on most smart devices out there, with over 400 million mobile device owners using the world’s biggest social network while on the go.
Instead Facebook announced its first step into search – recent reports did suggest that Google Search will get more competition from the likes of Facebook and Amazon – which is called Graph Search, a potential rival to Google’s Google Now product.
What is Graph Search?
In short Graph Search is a complete makeover of Facebook’s existing search feature, and we’re looking at an overhaul meant to keep users inside Facebook even more and encourage new Facebook relationships in the process.
With Graph Search Facebook users will be able to search for various things inside Facebook. This isn’t a web search tool that will take on directly Google Search, but it’s a product that can better compete against Google Now to some extent for now, as it will offer users the kind of personal relationship-based search results they may be interested in on a daily basis.
With Graph Search Facebook users will be able to get answers to some very specific answers based on their interaction with friends, pictures, places and other Facebook elements. The Graph Search engine will be able to let you see what you liked on Facebook, search through products you and your friends like and/or use, find things to do or places to see based on common interests.
Similarly, Google Now offers users some highly customized search results based on what Google knows about them, and the personal assistant-like search tool will certainly be improved in the future.
Graph Search is at its beginnings as well, and it will currently be available only on the desktop Facebook version and only in English. More features will probably be added in the future, with Microsoft’s Bing handling the web search part of one’s Facebook searches.
Can Facebook Search become a Google Search true rival?
Facebook sits on a vast amount of data from its 1 billion user base. Facebook users shared 240 billion photos and there are 1 trillion of connections out there already. And who knows how many likes? With all that information at hand it can definitely build up a competitive search engine.
Even if at first it won’t target Google’s web search business, which is Google’s main revenue stream, it will still convince some Facebook users to look for information inside Facebook rather than going to Google. And the more they get used to using Graph Search, the more they’ll get used to use Facebook to get answers for their questions, web searches included.
We could be looking at the next major battle in search, with Facebook, helped by Bing for now, making a play in the business, at the expense of Google. And this battle will not be fought only when it comes to desktop searches, as it will quickly spread to mobile devices via Facebook’s existing mobile apps.
From the looks of it, Facebook will not stop at providing only social networking-based results, and Graph Search will be further developed in the coming years. And while Mark Zuckerberg said that the product will not be immediately monetized, the company will at some point make money off its growing search engine, which could harm Google’s operations on the long run.
Also worth noting is that the CEO did specify that Facebook is working with Microsoft on web searches because an agreement with Google could not be reached yet:
“We would love to work with Google. We just wanted to incorporate search, and as long as the companies are willing to honor the privacy of folks sharing content on Facebook, we’ll work with them. We just haven’t gotten it worked out with Google yet.
The main thing is that when people share something on Facebook, we want to give them the ability to broadcast things, but also retract them later, and have them be removed immediately. Microsoft was more willing to do things specific to Facebook.”
So what about privacy?
When it comes to the social networking and/or search business, privacy usually comes up. No matter who plays the game, whether Google, Facebook, Microsoft, or others, we shouldn’t be surprised to hear various privacy-related concerns, especially when it comes to social networking-based searches.
Neither Facebook nor Google are strangers to privacy-related issues, with the latter being involved in quite a few such search-related predicaments over the years, so we’re certainly interested to see how Facebook will handle the privacy side of things, especially once Graph Search evolves into a money-making product.
For now, Zuckerberg says that the product has been built with privacy in mind, and that it will respect the user’s privacy settings when delivering results. But we’ll tell you more about it once the new Facebook search feature becomes available to the crowds.
Google+ makes even more sense now
Considering what Facebook just announced, a social networking relationship-based search tool that will help users find people, places, common interests and photos, you can easily understand why Google badly needed to invent its own social network, and once it did why it needed to lure/convince/force as many people as possible to enable their Google+ account and start being active on it as soon as possible.
Google is well aware of the importance of complex human relationship as manifested online over social networks and the role it social networking-based search can play in the future of the search business. By launching its own social network when it did, it practically made sure it was ready to face Facebook, when the time came for the latter to realize the search potential of the huge amount of user data it administers. And it looks like Facebook is ready to play in the Search business.
Will you Graph Search?
The new Facebook search option will be rolling out in the near future, after the beta test period ends. However, we have no idea when it will be available to all Facebook account holders, and, more importantly, when it will be available via the Facebook mobile app, specifically the Android one.
Let’s hear it from you, Android users, are you looking forward to Graph Search – and yes, it is a strange name for a search engine?[press]
Introducing Graph Search Beta
January 15, 2013
By Tom Stocky and Lars Rasmussen
Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected. The main way we do this is by giving people the tools to map out their relationships with the people and things they care about. We call this map the graph. It’s big and constantly expanding with new people, content and connections. There are already more than a billion people, more than 240 billion photos and more than a trillion connections.
Today we’re announcing a new way to navigate these connections and make them more useful. We’re calling it Graph Search, and it starts today with a limited preview, or beta.
When Facebook first launched, the main way most people used the site was to browse around, learn about people and make new connections. Graph Search takes us back to our roots and allows people to use the graph to make new connections.
Graph Search will appear as a bigger search bar at the top of each page. When you search for something, that search not only determines the set of results you get, but also serves as a title for the page. You can edit the title – and in doing so create your own custom view of the content you and your friends have shared on Facebook.
Graph Search and web search are very different. Web search is designed to take a set of keywords (for example: “hip hop”) and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. With Graph Search you combine phrases (for example: “my friends in New York who like Jay-Z”) to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that’s been shared on Facebook. We believe they have very different uses.
Another big difference from web search is that every piece of content on Facebook has its own audience, and most content isn’t public. We’ve built Graph Search from the start with privacy in mind, and it respects the privacy and audience of each piece of content on Facebook. It makes finding new things much easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook.
We’re very early in the development of Graph Search. It’s only available in English today and you can search for only a subset of content on Facebook. Posts and Open Graph actions (for example, song listens) are not yet available. We’ll be working on these things over the coming months.
The first version of Graph Search focuses on four main areas — people, photos, places, and interests.
People: “friends who live in my city,” “people from my hometown who like hiking,” “friends of friends who have been to Yosemite National Park,” “software engineers who live in San Francisco and like skiing,” “people who like things I like,” “people who like tennis and live nearby”
Photos: “photos I like,” “photos of my family,” “photos of my friends before 1999,” “photos of my friends taken in New York,” “photos of the Eiffel Tower”
Places: “restaurants in San Francisco,” “cities visited by my family,” “Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India,” “tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends,” “restaurants in New York liked by chefs,” “countries my friends have visited”
Interests: “music my friends like,” “movies liked by people who like movies I like,” “languages my friends speak,” “strategy games played by friends of my friends,” “movies liked by people who are film directors,” “books read by CEOs”
The Graph Search beta starts today. Go to www.facebook.com/graphsearch to get on the waitlist.
The roll out is going to be slow so we can see how people use Graph Search and make improvements.
We look forward to your feedback. Enjoy and explore the graph.
Additional Media Resources:
To learn more about Graph Search, go to www.facebook.com/graphsearch
To learn about Graph Search and privacy, go to www.facebook.com/graphsearch/privacy
To download a behind the scenes video, click here.
For a collection of screen shots, click here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Graph Search?
Graph Search is a new way for you to find people, photos, places and interests that are most relevant to you on Facebook.
What is Graph Search useful for?
Graph Search will help you instantly find others, learn more about them and make connections, explore photos, quickly find places like local attractions and restaurants, and learn about common interests like music, movies, books and more. All results are unique based on the strength of relationships and connections.
What can I search for?
With Graph Search, you can search for people, photos, places and interests.
How do I search?
Type your search into the blue bar at the top of the page. As you start to type, suggestions appear in a drop down. You can refine your search using the tools on the right-hand side of the page.
Some example searches include:
· People who like tennis and live nearby
· Photos before 1990
· Photos of my friends in New York
· Sushi restaurants in Palo Alto my friends have liked
· Tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends
How are you rolling this out?
Graph Search is in a limited preview, or beta. That means Graph Search will only be available to a very small number of people who use Facebook in US English.
How can I get Facebook Graph Search?
You can sign up for the waitlist at www.facebook.com/graphsearch
Does Graph Search change any of my current privacy settings?
No. Graph Search follows your current privacy settings. You can only search for content that has been shared with you.
How do I control what tags, locations and photos can show up about me?
To control tags, photos or posts with locations about you that appear in search, go to your Activity Log.