Skip to main content

Facebook Graph Search Challenges Google with Answers From Friends

Today, Facebook announced it has indexed more than a trillion connections between users to create its new Graph Search feature. The social network hopes to make it simple and easy to find specific answers to easy queries such as "who of my friends lives in San Francisco?" and complex queries such as "restaurants in New York liked by chefs."

CEO Mark Zuckerberg was quick to point out how different Graph Search is from a Web Search, because Web only returns links and Graph Search returns answers. However, if you can't find what you want in the index created by the social network, you will be able to perform a Bing Web search from within the network. 

For the first beta version of Graph Search, Facebook focused on people, photos, places and interests. For starters the service will only be available as a limited beta at Mark Zuckerberg says there's plenty more to index, but with 240 billion photos and more than a billion users, this is probably plenty to get people attached to searching their friends. In the future, Zuckerberg plans to index mobile, languages (currently only English) and all posts that have been put up by users worldwide.

Forget Googling your friends: Now you can much more easily stalk people you know. But you can also find out about people not in your network. Searching "friends with friends who are single men," for instance, will help you match-make for your friends.  To lock yourself out of such searches, you'll need to limit what fields in your profile that you fill out. The engine can only find those things you volunteer, such as alumni, location, origins, employer, etc. 

The Graph Search feature allows incredibly granular searches for all sorts of things. For instance, "Music liked by people who like Mitt Romney," "photos of friends in national parks," "dentists liked by my friends" or "languages my friends speak" points out some pretty interesting connections. The engine is also smart enough to autofill options and auto correct when it needs a different language to complete the search. For instance, searching "restaurants in San Francisco liked by my Indian friends" auto changes to "restaurants in San Francisco liked by my friends from India." 

For privacy tools, Facebook has built upon its Privacy Shortcuts. Under Who Can See My Stuff, in the Activity Log you can currently see all of your Facebook postings, likes, photos, etc. You can now mark photos you have hidden from your profile and then even go so far as to ask the original poster to remove the photos from Facebook. The social network then sends a note to the person who posted the photos and asks them to take the pics down. 

Graph search will be rolled out soon, but before that happens you'll have the chance to review and remove items you won't want indexed. For now, log on to your home page and review the pop-up privacy settings menu at the top right of the page. 

If you can't find what you're looking for through Graph Search, Facebook is leveraging a relationship with Bing to return actual search results. We're curious to find out how Google might respond, particularly since Zuckerberg did say during his presentation that he'd "love to work with Google."