Like a king welcoming guests to a banquet, Mark Zuckerberg recently brought in the press for the fanfare of Facebook’s new “graph search”. There was a whole gaggle of hype, buzz and euphoria. But will it actually live up to all that excitement What do you need to know’
Facebook graph in a nutshell
So what’s all this jiggery-pokery about. Why is it so marvellous In short, Facebook’s graph search will let you do more intelligent searches. That means you can type in “takeaways my friends like in Cambridge”. Then it will come up your friend’s favourite Chinese Takeaway The Golden Buddah and maybe some photos of the food.
According to Mark Schaefer, author of Return on Influence, this is great news. Predicting that “search as we know it is about to disappear.”
“The information density on the web is ridiculous and getting worse every day. ‘Knoxville pizza’ returns 8 million entries, none of them connected to my social graph or recommendations from my friends.”
“The new Facebook search engine will provide meaningful, warm results, cutting through those millions of entries to deliver something that it KNOWS you will like.”
The idea of the graph search is fun. Novelty. Like a dog chasing after a ball, or following it’s tail. It’s exciting because it’s a shiny new thing for everybody.
But cutting through the hype, where’s the real value in this
Since its IPO last year Facebook has been under relentless pressure to deliver their over inflated profit forecasts. Shareholders are battering down the door for Facebook to make money.
The real reason why Facebook has created this, is to rake in moolah. If marketers can delve into Facebook’s big-data cauldron, and market more effectively, Facebook will make more money. There is value here for marketers who can provide more-relevant advertising with this data.
For Facebook’s members themselves, it’s a cool tool but a bit unnecessary. This graph search is like Facebook’s court jester. It’ll juggle, be amusing, but will get boring after a very short time.
There’s also a number of flaws in the graph search concept
Firstly, if you wanted your friend’s opinions on a good place to eat, you’d ask them, right You wouldn’t need to consult Facebook, to show you their opinion. So it’s a bit redundant.
Secondly, there is limited data. Ok, everyone has that friend who spends their entire life on Facebook. But besides that have you filled out your Facebook profile Have you filled in your favourite sports, music, books, and all that kind of thing Probably not. And that’s where Facebook’s social graph is weak. The data set is large. But not complete.
Facebook’s graph search isn’t sophisticated enough yet
Maybe Facebook will push people to give more data about themselves in future, to boost the value of its database Then the graph search could be much more useable.
Then again, with people becoming ever more concerned about their online privacy, are they going to want to tell Facebook about their entire lives Especially if it’s only because Facebook can profit from selling it onwards.
The facebook graph search will evolve
Naturally over time, Facebook’s geeks will make it better. It’ll become more sophisticated. More intelligent. More wise. However, at the moment it is still quite a crude early-stage product
The whole process is very reminiscent of what happened to Google+ last year.
Everyone was really excited at the launch and played around with Google+. They all thought it was a rubbish knock-off version of Facebook, and many people abandoned it.
But then the features that were there, did turn out to be quite good. Google Hangouts are popular. The ‘Circles’ method of organising people and groups is clever. AuthorRank is also going to become more essential as Google links their search rankings to the credibility of your Google+ account.
Facebook’s graph search is surely going to follow in Google+’s footsteps
The graph search doesn’t seem to be sophisticated enough to do very much meaningful work at the moment. There’s likely to be a huge fanfare, trials and excitement. Rapidly followed by disappointment. Then I suspect there’ll be slow re-emergent phase of it being appreciated on its merits. Like Google+, the hype will fade, people will stop using it and then gradually re-adopt it as it improves.