I’m normally bearish on over-hyped apps and features, and I’m a tough guy to impress. But Facebook’s new Graph Search product is awesome. I was lucky enough to get an early preview on my account and am blown away at how powerful and game-changing this feature is.
Graph Search is Facebook’s latest way of leveraging the billions of data points on their social graph, instantly determining the connections between them, and displaying a set of search results that’s far richer than anything you’ve ever seen.
Here’s an illustrative example – I’ve never been to Santa Barbara, and don’t have any friends who live there. So I typed “Restaurants in Santa Barbara that my friends have been to” and got some good results.
Graph Search takes your query and traverses Facebook’s massive social graph to find search results that meet all of your criteria and are personalized to you. Just try that with Google – the results aren’t nearly as useful.
My query to Google produced the same old stale results, while my query to Facebook produced two highly relavent hits that I’d be very likely to try. Google is just Google, but Facebook’s solution means I don’t need Foursquare, Yelp, Google, and a number of other services. Graph Search is in its infancy, but in the near term it’ll change how you search in two key ways:
Natural Language Search will become the default. Users will expect every search bar, from the article search on the NY Times to your enterprise Intranet, to accept and properly parse natural language queries. “Bob from Account Management’s phone number, at our DC office.” “Nate Silver’s blog posts about Baseball during 2011.” Siri brought this concept mainstream, but Graph Search executed it in a way that will make it a default expectation.
We’ll assume that all of our available data points will (and should) inform search results. When I search Google for “Hotels in Austin,” I’ll expect that it knows I have higher elite status with Hilton than I do at Marriott, prefer full service hotels, and won’t buy hotel wifi if there’s good LTE coverage in the area. So rather than show me a list of hotels, a good response might be “The Austin Hilton Downtown is a good choice and is known for having fast internet available. Plus there are five other similar choices nearby.” Search engines will draw from not only every query you’ve executed, but everything else that company and service knows about you, and will produce highly personalized results.
As Facebook continues to develop Graph Search, I expect that what others have been saying will also come true – it could be a viable competitor to OKCupid, Match, and corporate recruitment tools. But regardless of which products Graph Search ends up competing with, it’ll change the way we think of search for the next 5+ years.