When it was rumoured that Facebook was launching a Facebook phone, we really hoped that it wouldn't be so. Instead, we wanted Facebook to fix its search among other things (a full list of what we wanted). So, at the press event yesterday, when Mark Zuckerberg identified 'Graph Search' as the third pillar of Facebook, the other two being Newsfeeds and Timeline, we sensed a win. Many commentators and the stock markets seem cautious about this daring new experiment by Facebook; however, we think that there are many reasons why Graph Search could be awesome.
Search using natural language
Over the years, we've been forced to search using keywords instead of everyday phrases. If you wanted to know the "Best Mexican restaurants in Mumbai", you had to key in "Mexican Restaurants Mumbai" and then dive into the links to find the best. Facebook's Graph Search lets you type in the phrase instead of Google-speak. Finally, there seems to a search engine that can understand our language.
Search results finally have a useful social context
Google has been trying to do this for a while by plugging those '+1s' next to the search results, but they are stuck in a conundrum; not many people +1 things on the web and the social context isn't quite social. Moreover, users have been resisting the muddying of what they consider pure web results. Facebook is the undisputed leader of the social space. You'd be using Graph Search to search inside Facebook and all the 'Likes' will start coming in handy. Now you can actually search for "Mexican restaurants in Mumbai that my friends like" and get results that have been validated by you friends. The filters that form a part of the power bar also make sure that you can refine you query and get more precise results.
Restaurants liked by friends
Search results that are people or entities
Facebook Graph Search will throw up results that are people or entities and not links. For example, if you wanted a job at Google but didn't know who to get in touch with, you could search for "Friends of friends who work at Google". This will throw up connections whom you can message directly to take the conversation forward. You could even ask for "Vets in Mumbai who my friends recommend" and you'll find a list of vets who you could get in touch with. This means that Facebook is poised for a big win in the local listings space.
Local businesses on a Graph Search result
Graph Search – awesome way to explore Facebook
Right now, you have two ways to browse around Facebook: the Timeline – where you can get all that you've done over the years, and the NewsFeed – the place where you get updates and content from your friends, pages you 'Like' etc. Graph Search is the third way in which you can browse through Facebook data. Your search query becomes the title of the page and the results become the content that you can browse. You could key in "Goa photos that have my friends" and spend the rest of the afternoon scrolling through the albums.
Browsing photos on Graph Search
Bing for everything else
Bing is a great search engine; it is just that Google is just as good and people are used to Googling. With Bing pulling in results from the web for your Facebook Graph Search queries, you can now access web results from within Facebook itself. The search result interface looks quite cool too.
Bing results on Graph Search
Here's a man who has built two of the most awesome web products in the last ten years – Google Maps and Google Wave. In fact, Google Wave was so brilliant and futuristic that even Google, which normally innovates for a lark, couldn't handle it. It is one thing to make products that people are asking for and yet another to conceive and create something that people don't know that they want. Lars Rasmussen does the latter, and he does it well.
(If you are wondering what the Facebook Graph Search is all about, click here)