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Facebook Unveils New “Graph Search” Feature


The world’s largest social network is finally using the data that it’s accrued on 1 billion users and their businesses to enter the search market. In a press conference yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of Facebook “Graph Search”. But what is Graph Search, and how will it affect the world of online search?

The FirstFound team has been looking into it on your behalf, and we’re ready to share what we know with our readers and customers.

What is Graph Search?

Announced by Mark Zuckerberg yesterday, Graph Search is Facebook’s newest offering. An upgrade of the site’s existing search function, it turns the social network into a social search engine – and one that will use your social data to provide the answers to certain questions:

“Graph Search is a completely new way for people to get information on Facebook. Eventually… we want to index all the posts and all of the content on Facebook. I thought it couldn’t be done. This is just some really neat stuff. This is one of the coolest things we’ve done in a while.

Graph Search is designed to take a precise query and return to you the answer, not links to other places that might take you to the answer.”

Mark Zuckerberg – Founder & Chief Executive, Facebook

Examples used by Zuckerberg in his press conference included finding restaurants that your friends recommend, finding pictures taken by people you know in a particular city, or discerning which of your friends to invite to an event based on their stated likes and interests.

And instead of Google, Bing and Yahoo, which send you to business websites, Facebook Graph Search will not send traffic outside of the Facebook network, instead referring users to business pages and user profiles.

This limited scope has prevented the function being labelled as a “Google Killer”, and critical reception to the service has been mixed.

What Do the Experts Think?

Even the usual panic-stricken doom-mongers haven’t yet decided that SEO is dead, or that Google will soon be obsolete. And they’re normally quick to suggest that everything from Google Instant to the rise in mobile usage is the death knell for the search industry.

Yahoo’s Finance blog has been quick to disparage the launch, stating that Graph Search is “exactly the sort of intrusion that Facebook critics abhor,” before claiming that  Facebook wants to be its “own, self-contained internet” – the walled garden that Tim Berners-Lee railed against way back in 2010.

Wired has been more positive about the launch, but the tech site is keen to point out that this isn’t going to have sweeping changes overnight. The fact that the new search function doesn’t incorporate adverts is a clear sign that this is nowhere near the finished article – and a revelation that has investors worried.

As with most things Facebook have launched recently, the markets have given an idea of how Graph Search will fare. And with Facebook reporting a 3% drop in stock prices overnight, the markets don’t seem to think this is a game changer.

Here at FirstFound, we’re more cautious. We don’t think that Graph Search will threaten the traditional search market (see below), but we aren’t writing it off as a flop just yet. After all, any site with one seventh of the world’s population as its userbase is going to be useful for businesses somehow.

How Do I Get Listed?

Getting listed is simple. You sign up for Facebook and set up a business page. Getting ranked is going to be more difficult.

Your ranking for various searches is going to depend on a number of social signals, and until more people can report on what they see in the Graph Search beta, we’re not in a position to offer much advice on how best to rank – beyond making sure that your profile is ranked.

However, it’s always good to be prepared, and you’ll want to be on Facebook when this is rolled out. If you need some help setting up your social presence on Facebook, along with other social networks, FirstFound will be happy to help you out.

Is This a Threat to Google and Bing?

It’s too early to say for sure, but here at FirstFound we’re going to say “no”. And for one very good reason.

Graph Search does not do the same thing as Google search. When you use Google, you can find the answer to any question or query, find any specific service or product, or pull up relevant news stories and blog posts. Graph Search will only return data from Facebook – and if you ask something that the graph can’t answer, it defaults to Bing search.

It also looks like you’re limited to your extended network (friends, and friends of friends). So if you ask Graph Search to find you search engine consultants and none of your friends have liked their SEO providers, you’re not going to get decent results. All of which combines to result in a search service that will help you find a popular restaurant, but that can’t replace Google or Bing.

In fact, Google’s response to announcement has been to release a new Doodle that lets you drive an ice-sweeper around a frozen lake and ice hockey rink, so we don’t think that they’re particularly worried just yet.

The people who should be worried are sites like TripAdvisor and Yell. Because anyone sensible will trust the views of a friend or colleague over an anonymous stranger when it comes to restaurants and hotels – and that’s precisely what Graph Search is set to offer.

Facebook Graph Search is still in open beta. We’ll bring you more news as and when we get it.

If you want to register for the beta, visit http://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch.


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2 Responses to Facebook Unveils New “Graph Search” Feature

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