Earlier today, we laid out the basic functionality of the new Graph Search live from the Facebook HQ in Menlo Park. Beyond the new features, it is interesting to look at how this will help Facebook going forward, including monetization. The “business” question was raised during the Q&A sessions and it is completely legitimate, especially when you think about the potential infrastructure cost of running this resource-intensive, 100% personalized, feature. Facebook is known to be a great engineering company, so there is little to worry about how much computing resources will be spent as Facebook will undoubtedly run it efficiently. What’s more interesting is that while Facebook wants to project an image of humility around Graph Search, this is definitely a key launch in the company’s history – here’s why in five points:
If you have missed the previous story, you can watch this video to see the Graph Search in action:
1/ “Some” search is infinitely better than “no search”
We’ve all been into a situation where we wanted to find a post, a photo, or some basic information that we had seen on Facebook before and that was just very hard. Graph Search now allows us to easily find many of those things (although not all. Posts are not searchable for now). Additionally, you can also “data-mine” your friends and find things about them that you never had time to browse in their uploads or timeline. Facebook badly needed a basic search, but instead, the company has rolled out something that goes way (way!) beyond basic search. Finally, the optional search filters make it easy to drill down on the search results, if needed.
Searching for your friends from your hometown used to be a chore. Now it takes a simple search phrase.
It’s information from people you know and trust
Unlike public forums like Yelp, Trip Advisor and other user-generated content services, you can see the “opinions” (Like, photos, comments) from people that you actually know. For instance, we would rather get opinions about Las Vegas hotels from of our blogger friends than from random tourists visiting Vegas because fellow bloggers tend to search for the same thing we do: fast Internet connection, proximity to the CES events…. A “Like” from those bloggers for a particular hotel is most likely much more relevant to us than tens of thousands of ratings from strangers who want a cheap night and don’t care about Internet speed.
In the same way, a Like for a restaurant from Eliane probably means that the place is nice with great food and wine, while a Like from Hubert most likely means “rich” and plentiful food. If you know us, a “Like” means so much more than a 1-5 star rating.
It’s much easier to manage your privacy, even for older items
Last month, Facebook rolled out its privacy shortcuts to make it easier for people to manage their privacy settings. Privacy has always been a sensitive topic for Facebook and its users, and today the social network giant made sure the new Graph Search announcement included an explanation on how to protect your privacy while benefiting from the new feature. Facebook even uploaded a video demo on the topic (see it below).
For example, after going to your activity log you can untag or unlike some photos or even message people who uploaded a photo of you that you would rather not have accessible to the public and ask them to remove it. When you unfriend someone who uploaded a tagged photo of you, the image immediately disappear (we’ve seen a demo at the press event).
Search Graph may create a virtuous circle
Knowing that you can find your own Facebook data based on text, location and other information will probably push Facebook users to be more thoughtful when they upload/update/post. It’s likely that the number of tags, captions, locations and “friends we were with” will increase because of Graph Search. In turn, this will give Facebook even more data to work with to improve and refine the service, making this a virtuous circle.
Monetization will come because Search Graph is genuinely useful
Just like Google does it with the web search, we can imagine how monetization could easily be done with the Graph Search in Facebook. For instance, this could really work very well with Places, the graph search engine could know very accurately what type or restaurants we like from our various queries and promote the most relevant choices in our timelines. Today, there is no notion of “intent” related to a place or product on Facebook, but down the road, the social network could leverage people’s intents from the type of queries they enter in the Graph search and use them to promote the most relevant products.
If you want to have access to Graph Search, here’s how to apply