Facebook pulled back the blue curtain Tuesday on its latest and much-hyped product launch to reveal a smarter, more relevant search tool.
Standing in a glorified conference room in front of two display monitors, a hoodied Mark Zuckerberg introduced us to Graph Search. The basic premise: why search all of Google, when you can just ask your friends?
"You want a search tool that can help you get access to things people have shared with you," Zuckerberg said, while stressing the search is "privacy-aware" and won't make public anything you've designated as private.
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So what's it mean, how are we going to use this? Well, the Facebook crew ticked off a number of "for examples," each built around the four categories Graph Search will pull from: People, Photos, Places and Interests.
People? Sure. A Facebook engineer ran through a scenario where you can search, in Siri-like language, "who are my friends in San Francisco?" Or if you're trying to contact someone you met at a party, you can search "friends of Joe Facebook named Michael who went to Emory" -- adding any number of demographic filters. Including who's single.
Graph search find me, "Friends of friends who are single men in San Francisco and aren't weirded-out by me using FB as a dating service."
— Jessica Roy (@JessicaKRoy) January 15, 2013
Photos? Want to see where to visit next time you're in Atlanta? Type in "Photos of my friends in Atlanta". Much more personalized/useful than a search engine's results. Also, you can index photos by year or people tagged in them.
Places? A pretty good way to get tailored recommendations. Find out which restaurants friends in your town have "Liked". Zuckerberg gave an example of locating Indian restaurants liked by his friends from India. So, clearly the more engaged with Facebook your friends are, the better the recommendations you get will be. But what if your network is relatively small, and folks aren't "Liking" every restaurant or dry cleaner they go to?
If two people with the same friend use Graph Search, they'll get different results because it's partly based on their relationship
— Martyn Williams (@martyn_williams) January 15, 2013
Interests? Apparently the Faceboss is a "Game of Thrones" fan. He explained searching for friends in San Francisco who like the show to put together a watch party invite list. TV shows, music, movies, hobbies... this one can go on forever.
And again, the only searchable results for any of these are items you have posted or "Liked," which can be shared based on your privacy settings. "You can only search content that people have shared with you," assured Facebook's Lars Rasmussen. Still, a review or update of your privacy settings is probably a good idea right about now.
This is the most natural-language search I've ever seen. It's a completely different paradigm from searching Google. Phrases, not keywords
— Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) January 15, 2013
You can check out a demo of Graph Search right here and also add your name to the waiting list to try it out. Zuckerberg said it will roll out to the public in the next few weeks and months.
Follow Jonathan Anker on Twitter for more Facebook news and tech stuff @JonFromHLN