Facebook Shows Where Search is Headed

If there’s one thing I noticed about the Facebook announcement today, it’s that it followed something that I (and others) have come to the conclusion of. That conclusion is that search is becoming more refined. When I say more refined, I don’t mean less junk links and better algorithms, per se. What I mean is search is becoming personalized.

If there’s one thing Facebook has down, its social networking and understanding how people interact with each other. With just shy of a billion (monthly) active users, there’s no denying that Facebook is the place people go to view, share, and converse with their “friends.” With that sort of reach/network, the potential for introducing a personalized search feature is incredible.

While watching the live-blog in Safari and having my Tweetbot stream chugging along next to my browser, I was amazed to see how many writers and techies alike weren’t impressed with Facebook’s new Graph Search. While I agree, it’s nothing revolutionary, it’s exactly what I am speaking about above. Facebook knows that they have the inverse potential of Google by having the social aspect down and not search. In knowing that potential, they have begun to capitalize on it where they shine and begin to implement that into the places they lack knowledge and experience. However, unbeknownst to most, they’ve been working on being able to capitalize on it for a great deal of time. For the past while, Facebook has been working on gathering more and more data from users as to what they like and how well they like it. As one example, after checking in at a specific place, Facebook will follow-up by asking you to like, rate, and share it in the sidebar in the following days. It’s an unobtrusive way to gain the information that will be vital to making a search function such as this work.

People want information in the most efficient way possible; and not only do they want it in the most efficient way possible, but they also want it to be specific to their interests. While Google uses other websites you visit to draw out what search results to more prominently display to you, Facebook is doing that which is even more suiting towards giving you what you want to see, using your network of friends.

What better way to specify search results than to use the network of people you surround yourself with, because whether you consciously recognize it or not, there’s a reason you surround yourself with the people you do. Almost always it’s because they have the same interests as you; or they have just enough differences that it keeps things interesting. In doing so, you narrow down (or broaden) the information you take in. If you’re a Mac fanboy, you’re not going to be friends with a plethora of Android fanboys more than likely. Thus, what information is shared between you and your network of friends is very specific and tailored to what interests you, Apple. With Graph Search, Facebook has brought that real-world concept into the digital realm.

If you are looking for a local restaurant and know that a certain friend enjoys the same Mexican food as you, type in “Mexican restaurant in [insert city] liked by close friends” and it will neatly bring up a collection of those restaurants that fit that criteria. It’s utilizing your social network in the same way you would by calling up a friend and asking them “what’s a good mexican place to eat at?”

There are plenty of other ways in which you can utilize this search function and even more on the way. If you are searching for something and it is unable to draw it from your social network, Facebook has partnered with Bing (eh) to use the web search function as well. As Zuckerberg stated, this is just the beginning towards reaching the true potential of social search.

“We have years and years of work ahead of us.”

It will be exciting to see where this ends up years from now, but for right now it looks like there is a lot of potential for it. One idea would be opening up an API for third-parties to use, to which Zuckerberg said, “We’d love to.” With time will come more features. In the meantime, lets not focus on the fact that this isn’t revolutionary; because in all honesty, something revolutionary isn’t what we need. What is needed is to utilize that which we already have in front of us to make it more efficient and to better our lives in some way or another. That is what Facebook is looking to do and so far it looks like they have accomplished at least the first step.

Another thing worth noting is the fact it follows one of the “13 Trends” in that the search bar is much larger and more prominent than before.

I’m curious as to your thoughts, though. My thoughts are the ramblings of my brain out loud and sometimes they make more sense than others. I love hearing other people’s outlooks and opinions. What better way to gain more knowledge and open up your thought process than to discuss with others that which intrigues you.

Let’s get some discussions going in the comments below and I’ll be sure to jump in on every conversation I can.

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