Facebook’s Social Graph
On January 15, Facebook unveiled its new social graph. This new type of search algorithm searches the wisdom of your collective network rather than the entire Internet. At the time of this writing, graph search is still in beta. Just about anyone can sign up to be a beta tester, but it’s not yet available to the entire Facebook community.
For example, if you were looking for a restaurant in your area, Facebook’s new graph search would search your Facebook friends to see which restaurant in your area they like. Then it would deliver the answer to you based on those results. This has the potential to be very promising when it comes to opinion-based searches such as entertainment, restaurants, music, and even service providers. After all, people love using their friends recommendations..
It Sounds Like a Good Idea
On the surface, Facebook’s new graph search sounds great. It takes advantage of everything you’ve ever told Facebook to deliver the most relevant results for you. That’s every search engine’s dream.
So what are its downfalls? Surprisingly, it has many, with some being more obvious than others.
One of the first downfalls of searching within the graph format is that it only makes use of your social networks. If you’re looking for something outside your area of expertise, for example information on an opera or scholarly commentary on art, then chances are it’s not already going to be in your network.
Additionally, people don’t necessarily ‘like’ on Facebook everything they like in real life. This even includes things such as movies, restaurants, and service providers. Facebook is only pulling from your existing network instead of the entire Internet; you might not be getting a true picture of the best places to go or the best things to see.
However, this is the major downfall of the graph; the privacy settings. If it’s delivering all of what you liked, to some people but only some of what you like to others, how do you know it’s not doing the same to you when it returns your results?
In addition, much of the information on Facebook is incomplete, through no error of Facebook. The truth is, not every user takes the time to fill their profile with useful information that will be easy for graph or real people to use. Without current, complete, accurate information, the whole purpose of having a graph search might be doomed before it begins.
On the surface, graph search seems like a great idea. Facebook has wanted to compete in the search space for a long time. Their future graph search might just help catapult them into search engine territory. On the other hand, it could be a colossal failure. Only time will tell.