Thursday, 17 January 2013

Facebook Graph Search: Not a giant-killer, nor should it be

Facebook Thing

Earlier this week, Facebook launched a service that was (apparently) bound to raise a few eyebrows. It’s latest product, being touted as a future ‘pillar’ of the community by good old Zuck, is a search engine that plugs into and uses the full power of your social graph. It’s called Graph Search.

You can search for content, and find content that is relevant to you and your circle of friends. If you like rock-climbing and your partner doesn’t, then why not type ‘Friends who like rock climbing’ into the Facebook, and then go climb some rocks with them.

Lots of people are saying how this either isn’t the big giant-killing app that they were all looking for from the announcement, or that Google need to be worried about the development of this.

I disagree with both points.

Firstly, what would you rather have had Facebook annnouce? A phone that would probably be universally derided? A set of new photo filters? A missile programme?

I think that Graph Search is a neat little idea. It helps you connect to people that like the same things as you. You can find your mates in Manchester that love Morrissey (hint: ME), people that like horror fiction in the UK (hint: ME).

The biggest downside for me is that I don’t think that a like or a recommendation is as strong as a signal as Facebook seems to think it is. We are told over and over again by Facebook that a like is not tantamount to an opt-in on

Secondly, I don’t think Google will be as worried about Graph Search as many pundits think.

Why? Because Google is a repository for (nearly, nearly) ALL information on the internet. A student isn’t going to look for their research paper on Facebook. I’m not going to search for an book a holiday on the basis of a Facebook like.

Facebook may own the social graph on the internet, but Google are slowly stitching together a social layer over their search property - which I think is far more valuable than a simple social search graph.

Graph Search is a neat idea. I really like it, and I look forward to using it when it finally becomes available to me.

But let’s not kid ourselves: This is not going to unseat Google, or majorly change the way we use the platform. It’s just an incredibly useful upgrade of a ‘pillar’ of Facebook’s service that didn’t work too well.

You want to see the real disruptive story coming from Facebook this week? How about Messenger allowing you to make voice calls. Now that’s something for phone networks to get concerned about - Facebook turning your phone into a zombie Facebook phone via it’s app.

Looks like they didn’t need to launch a phone after all.


  1. Completely agree - Your opinion here pretty much mirrors my blog entry on it. One thing I'd note though is that Facebook appears to be making some implicit associations between people and things they like based on their status updates, sites they visit and so on.

    I noticed working with FB recently that it can bring you back results for people that own businesses, or those with an interest in web development and so on, despite those things not being profile options or things that can be Liked.

    If I am right there, then the search could be a lot deeper, using associations that the users don't even know they've made.

  2. P.s. I think this is the reason for the change in ToS to allow them to use data gathered from the like button around the internet within their advertising business and so on. So that they can make these associations.

  3. That's interesting, but what's the value of a like on an article vs. a share?

    I'd like a bit more quantification on what value a like or a share is in terms of social signals.