Facebook has announced that it will be transforming its search engine into what is called a “graph search”.
The St. Cloud Times reports that unlike the search which is currently being used, the new graph search will “fully explore the relationships and connections between other Facebook users,” which means that instead of typing in keywords to bring up generalized results, users will be able to conduct more personal searches, with their results now based on the people in their friends list. The St. Cloud Times includes restaurants as an example, reporting, “instead of asking Google to search for ‘St. Cloud restaurants’, users can query Facebook Graph Search for ‘restaurants in St. Cloud liked by my friends older than 21 years’,” thus allowing users to conduct a more personalized, and in some cases more relevant, search. The new graph search technology would allow for users to eliminate the need to rifle through all of the information Google provides in each search result so they can jump straight to what they were looking for.
As pointed out in the St. Cloud Times, however, Facebook is not completely straying away from traditional search technology, incorporating Google’s rival search engine, Bing, to accommodate for the rest. This includes less specific key words users often use now: ‘restaurant’, ‘cheap’, ‘ham sandwich’, etc.
They also go on to report that Facebook has claimed that the new graph search technology respects the privacy settings of each user by protecting each individual piece of searchable information. This way, the only results to appear in a search would belong to individuals who have specified permission in their Facebook privacy settings.
But not everyone shares Facebook’s excitement for the tool. An article in The New York Times reports that in the beginning, the graph search will “mine users’ interests, photos, check-ins and ‘likes’, but later it will search through other information, including status updates.”
Doubt was expressed in the New York Times article about Facebook’s promises of complete privacy from the graph search, referencing an older article from December 2012 which reported Facebook’s past elimination of the ability for users to hide themselves from search results unless the users searching them are blocked, a feature previously enjoyed by many of the more private users of the social networking website.
Despite Google’s attempts to personalize its search engine and make it more social, as is pointed out in The New York Times, no company has attempted social search on this scale before now. Computer science engineer professor at Washington University told the New York Times that this is a “watershed moment,” saying that the scale at which Facebook operates sets it apart from other companies, “especially once they fully index everything we’ve said or say or like.”
The graph search has not been made available to everyone yet, the St. Cloud Times reports, though it’s being slowly introduced to its users through a beta program. Those interested may sign up to be a part of it at the hub at graph search.