Facebook introduces Graph Search
16th January 2013
Facebook introduced the latest feature to its dominant social platform yesterday at its corporate HQ. Graph Search, which Mark Zuckerburg referred to as Facebook's 'Third Pillar' after Timeline and News Feed, is intended to allow users to search People, Photos, Places and Interests within the platform.
The Facebook line on this latest development:
"Today we're announcing a new way to navigate these connections and make them more useful. We're calling it Graph Search, and it starts today with a limited preview, or beta.
When Facebook first launched, the main way most people used the site was to browse around, learn about people and make new connections. Graph Search takes us back to our roots and allows people to use the graph to make new connections."
So the new feature will introduce a behavioural change and reintroduce browsing as a means to engage with the site. This is important for a couple reasons; most obviously as a challenge and distinction to search engines like Google and Bing. Currently users searching the web have results returned by Bing and basic searches return profiles or business profiles. Graph Search proposes to change this by using intuitive language to search more of the internal content while developing the necessary technology of a powerful search algorithm.
Secondly, this is potentially a smart move in developing the advertising revenue and potential of the platform. Much of our behaviour is driven by timeline updates, likes and our own passive profile settings. In effect, content is delivered to the user; searching/browsing returns user activity to a model more akin to Google or Bing. Users will reach out beyond established profile defined Interests and Timeline delivered content and forge new groups, patterns and behaviours - all of which will be ripe for businesses looking to market to qualified demographics.
From an industry perspective, this demonstrates Facebook's continued alignment to user development and a feature set that still looks to innovate a 'killer app'. Why this is interesting is directly related to the IPO launch last year and subsequent stock dip. The tail end of 2012 saw Facebook stock climb back to the $38 value of the launch period and many expected yesterday's announcement to play safe - after all, investors prefer conservative, safe and stable development. Facebook under Zuckerburg seem to be prepared to challenge that perception.
The new feature will be US English only for now and rolled out over time. Zuckerburg said the initial roll out will be limited hundreds of thousands of users but increase from there stating, "This is a really big project. It will take years and years to map the whole index of the Graph."
The fortunes of Facebook's stock level over the next few weeks ought to be an initial indicator of market reception.
The Facebook announcement event can be seen here
A short demonstration can be seen here