A History of Facebook’s New Search Engine

Steven Levy of Wired provides the “inside story” of Facebook’s new search engine, Graph Search:

For years now, Facebook watchers have wondered when the company would unleash the potential of its underpowered search bar. (Nobody has feared this day more than Google, which suddenly faces a competitor able to index tons of data that Google’s own search engine can’t access.) They have also wondered how a Facebook search product might work. Now we know. Graph Search is fundamentally different from web search. Instead of a Google-like effort to help users find answers from a stitched-together corpus of all the world’s information, Facebook is helping them tap its vast, monolithic database to make better use of their “social graph,” the term Zuckerberg uses to describe the network of one’s relationships with friends, acquaintances, favorite celebrities, and preferred brands.

“There’s no real way to cut through the contents of what people are sharing, to fulfill big human needs about discovery, to find people you wouldn’t otherwise be connected with,” Zuckerberg told Levy. “And we thought we should do something about that. We’re the only service in the world that can do that.”

(HT: The Big Picture)

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COMMENTS: 8


  1. James says:

    Technically interesting, but it’s hard to see how it is much of a challenge to Google-like search engines, because they’re mining quite different sets of data. It might be good at e.g. finding one’s Facebook friends who have dogs and live nearby (assuming a) one uses Facebook; and b) didn’t know that already), but could it come up with a capsule description of say C4 photosynthesis?

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    • Buma says:

      It might not point you directly to a link that provides the capsule description of C4 photosynthesis, but it can forward you to some of the experts who would know. Better yet, it might put you in touch with others who are currently researching the topic, and perhaps see how they are going about researching the same.

      Knowledge culled from Facebook’s immense social graph can have a devastating effect on Google. Mostly because this is data that Google have no access to. Presently Google is the only place I go to whenever I want information and do not know exactly where to go to look for it. Imagine the future where I will automatically look up the information in both Google AND Facebook.

      That’s a big slice of Google’s revenue.

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      • James says:

        But 99.99% of the time, when I do a search for something, I do not want an expert (and the expert probably does not want to be deluged by thousands of basic questions from people like me). I may want something like a Wikipedia article to give me basic background, I may want scholarly articles for a bibliography, etc.

        Now you’re right that Google probably does not have easy access* to the sort of information that’s on Facebook, but neither does Facebook have access to the information that Google has. (At least not unless FB builds a separate Google-like web crawler.) So FB’s too is not really competition, it’s another tool that might (or might not) become useful and/or popular.

        * If their search engine can link to articles behind paywalls, I don’t see why they couldn’t index the info that’s on FB pages. Heck, maybe they already do, but the page links are items 1,000,001 through 1,999,000 of the approximately 2 million hits your query returned :-)

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    • Mike B says:

      It doesn’t take a very deep thought experiment to realize that while Facebook search will be useful to some people, it will not seriously challenge Google or the usefulness therein. I think that the fallacy that most people get caught up in is that people in general care a great deal about what their “friends” like and that most Facebook users will “like” enough things to make the service all encompassing.

      The first fallacy is caused by the normal process of asking a friend to recommend something. However rarely so I just want something that my friend wants…but instead I want my friend to recommenced something to me based on my own needs. So Facebook will return results that best represent others’ taste instead of my own. Second how much to people really go around linking every product and service they interact with? Google can track all the preferences of everyone on Earth while Facebook can only track those things people want to like. There’s a huge difference there.

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  2. Maggie says:

    I wish I could be sure that this rollout will be as transparent as Zuckerberg is quoted (in the linked article) as saying. When I first started seeing my friends ‘comments’ and ‘likes’ in my Newsfeed, I thought that was a choice my friends were making. I didn’t realize that my every friend is now being treated to a view of everything I ‘like’ or ‘comment’ on. It’s a little like having a private conversation in a quiet corner of a party … and then discovering that somebody’s hiding behind the couch eavesdropping. What will Graph Search be like?

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  3. Gary says:

    They should call it Bacon Search.

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  4. Ola Vea says:

    Thank you for this quote. I liked it.

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  5. Buy Facebook Fans says:

    This is a search engine which can tells us a history of Facebook. So I will suggest you to read Facebbok history.

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