Introduced merely ten days ago, Facebook’s Graph Search didn’t get the best market reception: the company’s shares plummeted by almost 6 percent following its announcement. It did, however, set the tech world abuzz.
Touted as Facebook’s “third pillar” after newsfeed and timeline by CEO Mark Zuckerburg himself, it is, simply put, a personalized search engine that sifts out results from within the website, at present available only in the beta version to select users of American English. There are some visible changes in the webpage’s organization and display, but nothing too hard to keep pace with.
Here’s how it works: You can look up your friends through customized searches based on the information they’ve made public, through phrases such as “Friends from Delhi University who subscribe to DU Beat” or “Friends in New Delhi who play golf”.
So how good is Facebook’s latest offing? Tech observers, analysts as well as users stand divided in their opinions. While some view this foray as an avant-garde move that incorporates even search as a social activity, others show mild acceptance and reject any apparent threat to traditional search engines. Yet far too many ordinary users remain concerned about privacy settings.
The issue of privacy was addressed in the introductory press conference itself, with Zuckerburg giving the assurance that the data unearthed through a graph search would not bring up any content that has not previously been made public. But in case you still haven’t made changes to your profile, pages you’ve liked and tags following the major revamp last year, it would serve you well to do so before Graph Search takes the scene and digs out something even you may have forgotten about.
Next, what about the threat that Graph Search may pose to traditional search engines such as Google Search? It is unlikely that it may ever be able to displace Google off its throne. After all, it mostly draws search content from within your connections on Facebook and Bing as an extension, therefore with an altogether different target from Google’s broad search.
On the other hand, it helps you build on these already established social connections, effectively assuming the same importance as that of word-of-mouth in the daily non-virtual setting. And in doing so, goes beyond anything else we’ve seen thus far. You want to find friends to accompany you to a Coldplay concert next month? Graph Search comes to your aid by displaying friends who you may be able to get on board.
Graph Search, therefore, might just turn out to be the key to recover all those losses that Facebook made upon going public last year. It is indeed a great stride ahead in the realm of social communication and media, provided it extends its focus beyond people, photos and places. Only then are Google, Foursquare and LinkedIn likely to get a serious run for their money in the future.