Facebook is currently working on their new Graph Search product. It’s in invite-only Beta right now, but it will be rolled out to all users eventually. Facebook has a crack team of ex-Google employees working on it, and the demos are impressive.
Currently, Graph Search does not complete directly with Google and is not intended for general “informational”, keyword-based web searches. Rather, the idea is to tease interesting data out of social graph connections and relations, such as “who as likes to mountain bike where I work”, “what games do my friends play” and “best pizza place near me”. The Google+ “Search Plus Your World” product has a similar goal, enhancing search results with information from Google+, but it doesn’t support relational queries. The number of brands and restaurants on Facebook actually positions Graph Search more as a competitor to Yelp and Foursquare than Google.
Facebook has not announced a monetization strategy for Graph Search yet (to the disappointment of shareholders), but one obvious route looks to be selling search ads that are targeted by combining “search intent” - which is what Google has built it’s business on - with Facebook’s valuable social data.
Privacy is an immediate concern with Graph Search, so much so that Facebook tried to allay in their initial announcement. The effectiveness of social search relies of the amount of public data users share, putting it at odds with user’s privacy needs. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
It is early days still and speculation about Graph Search is rampant. But it will be a valuable discovery tool for businesses with Facebook Pages and Applications, and because of that Facebook has already released a few resources that provide a basic outline of how the search will work, and how businesses can optimize for it.
The goal of this post if for me to synthesize the changes for my own understanding, but I thought I would share it with the world as well. I will hopefully update this page as more information becomes available and my understanding improves.