It’s been a long time coming, but social network giant, Facebook, has finally launched its new smart search engine, which it has named graph search.
The new feature will allow users to make ‘natural’ searches of content shared by their friends. The obvious questions begged by the announcement are, is such a search facility needed when we already have Google on the case, and is this Facebook’s attempt to mount a direct challenge to Google’s dominance of the search market?
Well, according to Founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, it is necessary and it isn’t meant to challenge Google – well, not directly at least. In Zuckerberg’s opinion, graph search was a social search facility that users could turn to to find answers when traditional search solutions failed to deliver. It was not, therefore, a direct challenge to Google. All Facebook had done was integrate Microsoft’s Bing search engine for situations when graph search itself could not find answers. Confused? Well, you’re not alone. He went on to elucidate at an event at Facebook’s headquarters in California:
“We’re not indexing the web, we’re indexing our map of the graph – the graph is really big and it’s constantly changing.”
In Facebook speak, the social graph is the given name for the collective pool of information shared between friends that are connected via the site, and includes things like status updates, photos and location data as well as the things that have been ‘liked’ by users. There had previously been criticisms that Facebook’s search facility was underpowered and ineffective, however the social media platform is now satisfied that it has delivered a search facility that is significantly more powerful. It has argued that this type of technology could now be used for recruitment, using graph search to find candidates with the right sort of qualities and qualifications for advertised jobs, thereby potentially treading on LinkedIn’s toes, but that’s another story.
The industry seems to be seemingly unimpressed by the latest Facebook offering. Mark Little, principal analyst at research firm Ovum, told the BBC:
“I think probably people were looking for something a little bit more strategic,” he said.
“On the plus side I think it’s going to help drive connections within the network between individuals and between companies and pages. If you are increasing connections between friends and pages you are effectively increasing the reach of advertisers.”
Zuckerberg said that graph search would launch immediately as a beta test, and would roll out “very slowly”. The tool will be usable from the blue banner that sits at the top of every Facebook page:
“We’re going to put an encouragement on the home screen of everyone’s account so that everyone has the chance to look through these tools. We’re going to do this before graph search is fully rolled out.”