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Facebook Bets Big On Graph Search


Written by  Harpreet | 16 January 2013
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FacebookWhen it comes to data, Facebook is filthy rich. Yesterday, the company revealed new plans on harnessing true potential of its massive data set contained within the Social Graph. Facebook announced the launch of the new Graph Search.

Simply put, the new feature will enable users to run a smart search based on their existing connections on the world's most popular social networking tool. With over a billion active users, Facebook's newly announced feature will tackle a ginormous amount of data with each query.

Graph Search makes a lot of sense for Facebook at this point of time. Facebook users have spent a lot of time engaging with their friends, creating stories, consuming newsfeed, liking a lot of pages(for no good reasons till now) and plenty of other things. All of those will now make sense. Users will now be able to search across all those interactions to solve real world problems. Say you're looking to invite people for a book launch party - now you'll be able to find out exactly who in your social circle likes books or a specific title. This is just one use-case for Graph Search.

Let's first take a look at how Facebook's Graph Search will work for users. The feature will be available as a search bar at the top of every page on Facebook. Here you can type a query that is as simple as, "People who like things I like", "People who like cats", and so on. On the right side you get to perform a more specific search query using filters. The search results will include information from the existing data set that you've created over the years. So if you've added friends who have mentioned that they like cats or they've liked pages titled "Cats", you'll be able to search for them using Graph Search. Again, that's just another use-case.

fbgraphsearch

Facebook clearly mentions how different their new feature is from a regular web search. When you perform a regular web search on Google, you simply enter keywords and the results comprise of all the top results matching those keywords. In terms of the Graph Search introduced by Facebook, you could combine multiple phrases and even add specific conditions to them. Say, "People who like Cats and are from London, UK". The results will include your friends who like cats and are located in London, UK.

Currently the feature is in a limited beta. Facebook mentioned that they will be rolling it out slowly to users across the globe. Users can expect access to Graph Search in the coming few weeks. The public beta edition of the feature will allow users to search - people, photos, places and interests. Gradually, all other data sets will be added. According to Facebook, status updates and newsfeed stories comprise of the biggest data set on the social graph. They're more likely to take time in showing up on Graph Search. Facebook is also rolling out the feature slowly because the algorithm will get better as it learns from user queries and results.

Graph Search would fill the void most of its users have been experiencing for quite some time now. With a ton of information on its servers and hardly any simple ways to extract it to users - the popular social network needed a way to add value for its users. Graph Search will, most certainly, fill that void eventually but it will take users some time to get used to it - the same way it’ll take Facebook’s algorithms to learn more about the service.

According to Wired, there’s a team of 50 engineers working on Graph Search for Facebook. The team is being led by former Google employees Lars Rasmussen and Tom Stocky. Rasmussen is more popularly known for Google Maps and Google Wave. The latter was shut down by Google after it failed to satisfy the search giant’s expectations in terms of user adoption. The team started working on the project way back in 2011 itself. It goes on to show how massive this project is for Facebook and its future.

Facebook has partnered with Microsoft Bing for web searches. In case the Graph Search cannot return any results for a query, it will allow the user to perform a web search within a Facebook wrapper, with search powered by Bing. That could be huge for Bing in the long run if people get used to performing searches on Facebook itself.

Overall, Facebook’s recent announcement has something in store for both users and the company. While its users are now empowered with a powerful social search which could come in handy in solving real-world problems, it could offer some amazing new ways to help monetize the social network.

Harpreet

Harpreet

Harpreet is a technology journalist based in India. He currently writes on Mobile, Technology and Startups. He is an avid reader and a passionate writer. Prior to ToolsJournal, Harpreet used to write for a major English news daily.

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