Facebook has recently announced a search function addition to its social network. This much anticipated addition hasn’t come as a surprise but its not exactly the Google-rivalling search engine that many were expecting. Instead its an engine that searches content shared by your Facebook friends. ‘Graph Search’, which isn’t out yet, responds to requests like ‘restaurants in London my friends like’. It pulls data from your friends activity and returns results based on what it finds.
Zuckerberg has described the forthcoming search function as the ‘third pillar’ of Facebook, alongside News Feed and your Timeline, so they clearly have high hopes for it. Its a much needed addition to the site which has faced a lot of criticism for its weak search function.
There are some early critics of the Graph Search concept, sighting a number of potential problems;
The main problem is that it relies on people sharing all of their experiences which most users don’t do, at least not to the extent that graph search requires to work properly. The more information people share, the better the results Graph Search will be able to return.
Another criticism has come from those who believe that it will tread on Google’s toes, despite what Zuckerberg has said. Instead of searching for ‘restaurants in London’ on Google people may start to search on Facebook as they can get results based on what their friends and people they trust have to say. This could, in theory, lead to a Trip Advisor style situation where restaurants ask customers to Like them on Facebook and share their experience. Groan.
Dating sites could also lose out to Graph Search. What’s better than using the internet to find single people of the opposite sex? Graph Search will be able to show you single people on friends, single friends etc. so you can approach them safe in the knowledge that you have common ground and mutual friends. You also have an angle to start from.
Graph Search also creates a Google style PPC model that Facebook can use for advertising. Businesses could pay to appear when a user enters a query containing the phrase ‘restaurant in London’, for example. So cynics might say that its simply a revenue raising exercise, not a feature designed purely to enhance user experience.
Its hard to analyse the feature before it has been fully released so we’ll have to wait and see, when it is properly launched. There’s already a lot of excitement and interest around the product, mainly due to the anticipation and length of time that people have been waiting for it.
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