Facebook’s big reveal – it’s Graph Search – weaves a smart web within social

15 Jan 2013

Facebook has launched a new search engine based on its social graph called Graph Search. It’s a smart search engine built solely for within the Facebook 1bn-strong ecosystem of people (and brands), and poses interesting questions for the future around what the social network is doing with all that data we willingly volunteer.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said today that there are three pillars that Facebook is built upon – the first pillar is the social network’s News Feed and the second pillar is the Timeline.

The Third Pillar? Say hello to Graph Search.

“We are not indexing the web,” Zuckerberg said. “We are indexing our map of the graph which is really big and constantly changing.

“Almost a million people every day, 240bn photos and 1bn people. 1 trillion connections,” he said.

He said that the new search engine for Facebook will index friend connections, locations, likes, comments, tags and apps.

The Third Pillar of Wisdom … is in beta mode

graph search

Zuckerberg described the construction of the Social Graph as a monumental technology challenge in terms of making it possible for people to retrieve information instantaneously.

“The search we wanted to build is privacy aware,” Zuckerberg said, pointing out that every piece of content on Facebook has its own audience.

The key was to give individual access to a search tool that is smart – that gives access to the things people have shared with you and he said that the search tool is designed to show the answer to a query, and not just a series of links.

For example, if users search for “music my friends like,” or “sports my friends like” or TV shows or locations they have been to, the search tool will spew up the answers.

However, Zuckerberg stressed that the new search tool is in beta mode and the foundation of the search tool will revolve around people, photos, places and interests.

Facebook appears to be at pains to stress that Graph Search is very different from web search which we are all familiar with.

For example, with Graph Search you can combine phrases like “my friends in New York who like Jay-Z” which will yield the data sets associated with friends who fit into this context and match those keywords.

Many results will be accompanied by graphics, maps and a “refine this search” bar that appears on the right hand side to help users narrow down their search.

In a blog post the company said: “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 beta begins today and Facebook urges interested users to go to www.facebook.com/graphsearch to get on the wait list.

However, if you aren’t in the mood for waiting, we have learned that Russian search engine Yandex has built a killer app called Yandex Wonder that lets users perform voice-based searches for content friends are consuming on Facebook. Things are about to get very interesting.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years