Find more of what you’re looking for through your friends and connectionsThat's the tagline for the new Facebook Graph Search, recently announced by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the company headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
Facebook may not be going after traditional web search, but does it really need to? With around 1 trillion connections, photos, videos and memories, Facebook is privy to data that makes it the center of our lives and our relationships.
So the big question is, can Facebook Kill LinkedIn, Yelp and others is their league?
For now the Graph Search is a limited tool that it will roll out very slowly over a period of months and years. However, it does have a specific and broad ranging list of uses which overlap everything provided by companies like LinkedIn to Yelp and Foursquare to Match.com.
Most experts are skeptical about Facebook Graph Search being any real threat to leading internet companies, but there are whispers ... asking a question which no one dared to ask before ... Does Google have competition?
Read on to find out ...
Facebook has decided that it's time for your professional life to converge with your social life. Taking it one step further, recruiters will now be able to not only shortlist candidates according to the information on their profiles, but also find suitable candidates for a position.
Facebook, already used in various ways by recruiters, could siphon off activities that might otherwise have gone to LinkedIn.
In a demonstration at the press event, Lars Rasmussen, Facebook's Director of Engineering, who heads the Graph Search team, mentioned that he could:
Find people from NASA Ames Research Center who are friends of Facebook employees.
- Graph Search gives a rather specific subset of qualified candidates for a position. Next time you need to find married male models in Rochester who follow Scientology and speak Hebrew, try the Facebook Graph Search.
- LinkedIn has a pretty good, if not exclusive, hold on recruiters, they will not abandon it for Facebook anytime soon.
- Facebook profiles are not resumes, people don't update their professional information on it regularly.
- Facebook is used with family and friends in mind, not potential bosses, and most of us would prefer to keep it that way.
- While blindly contacting someone you've never met on LinkedIn is expected, it may be uncomfortable on a network of friends.
The UglyInterestingly, the controversial use of Facebook to shortlist candidates for jobs has already been debated and published in Forbes, Huffington Post and The Telegraph, among others.
- Facebook has social data which is unmatched by any dating site, be it Match.com, eHarmony or OkCupid.
- For many people, the fact that someone is a friend of a friend may imply some kind of endorsement, valid or not.
- As Facebook product management director Tom Stocky suggested, if he wanted to set up his visiting Indian cousin he could search for:
Friends of friends who are single men who live in San Francisco and who are from India .
- Facebook recently announced you could pay $1 to send a message to a stranger outside of your network ($100 if that stranger is Mark Zuckerberg), a feature that makes a lot more sense with Graph Search.
- People who use dating services usually want some distance from direct friends and colleagues.
- Graph Search can be used to find new "connections," like single friends of friends who share your interests. Are we ready to turn Facebook into a dating site?
- To find dates, people set up separate profiles on Match.com or OKCupid, which are constructed specifically to show one side of a personality.
- The things you'd like a potential date to know about you are not the same things you'd share with old high school friends, your aunt or colleagues.
- Zuckerberg once wrote to his close high school friend Adam D'Angelo, now Facebook's CTO and co-founder of Quora;
- Would we have signed up for Facebook if we knew our information was going to be available for dating?
- Is it right that suddenly dating is on the table after we put our entire life on Facebook?
I don't think people would sign up for the Facebook thing if they knew it was for dating.
- Not everyone on Facebook wants to receive pick-up messages from strangers (even if they are friends of friends). Cold friending or cold messaging someone on Facebook is uncomfortable because you don't know if the other person wants to be approached.
- On the other hand a user signs up on OkCupid with an assumption that everyone on it is interested in dating. On Facebook, even those who label themselves as "single" may not be in the market for a new relationship.
- Probably one of the few non-controversial uses of Facebook Graph Search is entertainment. It can include anything from finding the closest clubs, to restaurants, movie theaters, recommendations and more.
- The idea is to explore friends’ interests and places they've been to, and see where they match yours, or to find recommendations for their favorite services.
Let's say we search for
'restaurants in San Francisco liked by my friends from India.'
Sounds useful, but this can extend to more than just friends, for example:
'restaurants in San Francisco liked by Culinary Institute of America graduates.'
Or say 'bars in Dublin liked by people who live in Dublin'.
- Considering such potential, it's not surprising that Yelp's shares fell 8% after Facebook's announcement.
- However, I doubt that Yelp is in immediate trouble. Our friends on Facebook, which number only in a few hundreds, hardly have the final word on good restaurants, bars or anything else for that matter.
- Most people on Facebook don’t scrupulously “like” their electrician, plumber, or dentist or even know if they’re on Facebook. So there will continue to be a place for broader sources of recommendation for a wide variety of businesses.
Though Advertising was not really discussed at the conference, the potential is quite obvious.
- The purchase intent implied by Facebook’s Graph Search queries will help in targeting audience.
- If a restaurant owner, for instance, could pay to put a Sponsored Search below your friends’ recommendations, that could prove to be just as valuable to you – and to the advertiser – as Google’s search ads.
- Graph Search makes all that data on Facebook users and their activities (more than 5 billion actions a day) more structured and searchable.
- Macquarie Securities analyst Ben Schachter says,
This should enable users and, importantly, advertisers, to find more utility in FB data
- Kurt Abrahamson, CEO of the share-button company ShareThis and a former Google sales director notes that;
(if Facebook Graph Search ads work) at even a fraction of the efficiency of search, they could be a huge moneymaker.
- In some cases, just as Google opened up new markets for advertising as much as it stole from others, a good chunk of those Facebook ads may be from small businesses that never advertised much online.
- If the ads work, a good chunk also could be shifted from search ad budgets. Chris Winfield, CEO of digital marketing agency BlueGlass Interactive says
All they have to do is take one out of every 50 searches from Google
- Advertisers are ready for an alternative to Google, not because they are dissatisfied, but simply in need for a credible competitor to keep it honest and perhaps ad prices lower.
Most advertisers and brands will be happy. They come to us and want to spend more with Facebook, but they’re not sure how.
- The idea is not original. In fact it follows in the footsteps of Internet’s single best moneymaker - Google search ads.
- Facebook will definitely not cause wholesale changes in advertising budgets anytime soon. At least the mother-hen, Google, is in no immediate danger.
- Kurt Abrahamson says that neither Google search nor its core search ads are threatened for now.
- Besides, Google itself is clearly committed through its Google+, Search, Plus Your World and Google Ad Innovations to make sure it gets a load of social data on its own.
Among the many announcements, three things Zuckerberg said seemed quite misleading:
- Graph Search was not about searching the web
- It was not targeted at Google
- There were no immediate plans to make money from it
Interestingly, two of the prime developers of Facebook Graph Search, Lars Rasmussen and Tom Stocky previously worked on search products at Google. Let's see what works in favour of Google - the noun that became a verb, and Facebook - The largest social network the world has ever seen:-
- Facebook may boast its 1 billion mark, but does it stand any change against Google's 30 trillion milestone? Moreover, is social search really worth the hype?
- Google's Search Plus Your World, introduced last year, takes into account your social circles too while answering search queries, but for Google, that's just one signal.
- Besides the social search, there are the 30 trillion Web sites Google has indexed, across 230 million domains.
- The Knowledge Graph database of 570 million people, places, and things, which now has mapped more than 18 billion connections. For most questions, that enormous database will provide better answers than the random sample offered by the average Facebook user's 150 friends.
- Graph Search will be much more useful and commercially attractive if it offers users a one-stop shop - access to all the information in their social network and then in the wider web if that's not enough.
- As Google+ has shown how difficult it is to beat the top dog at its own game, maybe the firm that has defined search can be relaxed about this rival.
- Finally, I really can't imagine myself ever saying "I'll just Graph that".
- Let's say you want your Facebook friends' advice on something - but you also want to look beyond that. Hidden at the bottom of the search options, where you might not spot it at first, is a Bing powered "web search", which gives you wider results without ever having to leave Facebook.
- Bing's statement about its involvement in the service says,
when people want to search beyond Facebook, they see web search results from Bing with social context and additional information such as Facebook pages.
- This does sound like a threat to Google. Facebook's billion users already spend a lot of their time on the site or on its mobile phone apps, but if they leave, it is often to go to Google for search. Now they will be able to stay on Facebook, earning the company huge advertising revenues as they search for goods and services.
- Zuckerberg revealed for the first time that Google was unwilling to change its search algorithm so that once a wall post or photograph was deleted from Facebook it vanished Google's search results too. Microsoft was able to do this and has partnered with Facebook since 2010.
- Google refuses to comment, but if correct, this adds to the theory that Google's highly complex search algorithms are increasingly at odds with the social web.
- The worry for Google is that it will come to be seen as the reason why nothing can ever be fully removed from the internet.
The 'Like' Button:
- The source of power and of problems both, for the Graph Search is the 'Like Button'. Graph Search only lets you draw connections between people, but people just don't wield the 'Like' as often and as discerningly as is needed to turn Facebook into a useful recommendation tool. This demonstrates one of the big problems with Facebook's approach to search.
- It's also an easy tool for deep-pocketed companies who can afford to maintain a social media presence to buy more likes and come out on top.
- A search on Facebook yields a few results, a handful of 'Likes' and a few scattered wall posts on a sparse unofficial landing page. In contrast, Yelp will be have hundreds of reviews with star ratings.
- Searching for places visited by friends turns up locations they have 'checked in' at. But how do we know if they enjoy their meal?
- Facebook needs users to make Graph Search work — by contributing more “likes,” uploading more photos, and checking in to more places. However, last year, the Pew Internet Center found that social network users were more aggressively pruning their profiles — untagging photos, removing friends and deleting comments. Facebook spokesman, Jonathan Thaw, defends this by saying
“While the usefulness of graph search increases as people share more about their favorite restaurants, music and other interests, the product doesn't hinge on this.
- Moreover, Graph Search doesn't provide access to any new information. It just makes it easier to mine the data you already have access to.
- Every post you make reveals slivers about you (not just "Like"). Technically, Facebook should be able to detect if you like cats, even if you didn't take the time to hit the Like button for a page called "cats." But it can't do this without rightfully alarming its already privacy-sensitive 1 billion users.
- To search for people, Graph Search scours your profile information so people can find you based on what school you went to, where you work, your religion or who your friends are. Searches can be refined using filters for every available profile field, including likes, work info, family connections and the Facebook apps people use.
- Facebook removed the capability to opt out of searches last month, before it announced the new feature. Sam Lessin, a Facebook product manager, confirmed the change saying that only “a single-digit percentage of users” had opted out when the choice was available. Of course, with 1 billion users, that still translates to at least 10 million people.
As an article in the NewStatesman said
Facebook's graph search is a creeper's dreamTip: If you're worried about what Graph Search might uncover, you'll need to revisit their “Privacy Settings”, “Timeline and Tagging” and “Who can see my stuff?” to see what's visible, because Facebook stalking would now be limited only by users’ creativity in coming up with search queries.
Here are a few searches that surface potentially embarrassing, hypocritical, threatening or unsavory information about Facebook users, such as:
- “Current employers of people who like Racism”
- “Spouses of married people who like [cheat-on-your-partner dating site] Ashley Madison”
- “Family members of people who live in China and like [the very very banned] Falun Gong”
- “Islamic men interested in men who live in Tehran, Iran”
- “People who like Focus on the Family [anti gay marriage] and Neil Patrick Harris [very gay and due to be married with kids]”
- “Single women who live nearby and who are interested in men and like Getting Drunk”
- “Mothers of Catholics from Italy who like Durex”
Ease of Use:
Greg Ver Steeg, a computer scientist who studies social networks at the University of Southern California’s Computer Sciences Institute, is skeptical that users will want to spend much time feeding complex queries into Graph Search. He summed up this problem saying:
The really successful additions to social media are things that reduce your cognitive load, not add to it—things that make it easier and more automatic to find what you like.
- Even with its baby steps into the search business, Facebook has again set new terms of engagement in the battle for the soul, or at least the cash register, of the Internet.
- As Facebook maxes out on new users, Graph Search will help the company prove to Wall Street that it can continue to exponentially grow another important metric: engagement.
- The product has a long-term potential to be a money-making machine. Graph Search will fill in the dots between the person, the brand, and the preference.
- It unlocks the potential for brands to provide people with relevant offers for things they actually want.
- And finally as Zuckerberg said,
it’s very, very early for Facebook search, and search is a devilishly complex discipline to do well.The Cons
An article in the Forbes Magazine is titled:
Facebook Graph Search Is A Disruptive Minefield Of Unintended Consequences
A powerful search function is a logical and useful addition to Facebook, but the beta version is far from being the Yelp, LinkedIn or Match.com killer that Facebook may be hoping for. It's not that the social network doesn't have the data to turn it into a powerful recommendation tool, but it needs some major catalysts.
- There would have to be some major shifts in how people use the social network.
- The current internet giants are too strong, rarely does a company kill another healthy company no matter how good its products are.
- Facebook would have to greatly improve how it collects information from people going forward, or expand its search powers to comb through status updates and comments.
- We don't live in an idealized Zuckerbergian world where all Facebook members are real people with complete and and frequently updated profiles. In reality, the data is flawed and incomplete. And so is Graph Search, at least for now.
To quote from another article, this time in the MIT Technology Review:
Facebook’s New Graph Search: Not Very Good
So, to answer the big question in the headline: No, Facebook won’t kill any of the current leaders, certainly not anytime soon.