Facebook has launched Graph Search, a search engine to mine the billions of friend connections, locations, likes, comments, and tags that make up its Social Graph backbone. Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement at a media event today at Facebook's Menlo Park headquarters.
Zuckerberg says the new search engine, which is currently in beta and which will live in the existing top blue search bar on Facebook, will allow users to easily find the answers to questions they want to know about the people in their Social Graph, such as "TV shows my friends like" or "My friends who live in Palo Alto who like Game of Thrones."
Graph Search can also surface information about people you aren't necessarily connected to on Facebook. For example, you'd be able to ask Graph Search to show you "People named Chris who are friends of Lars and went to Stanford."
It also tackles some of the current user interface problems with Facebook, such as how best to navigate through photos of you and your friends. If you tell Graph Search to find "Photos of my friends," for example, it will deliver you results starting with the "best photos," ranked by how many likes, comments, and other signals they've gotten across Facebook.
Graph Search's focus on the interests, places, tastes, and relationships that the people in your social graph share starts to remove the focus on "links"—in other words, with Graph Search, there's less need to have to visit a particular friend's Timeline to find out something about them.
But the effectiveness of Graph Search is contingent on the amount of personal information people choose to share about themselves on the network. For instance, while Graph Search may be a useful way to find out what bands your Arcade Fire-loving friends also listen to, it might not be as effective if you're trying to use it to find out say, which hole-in-the-wall restaurants or doctors they're visiting.
People: "friends who live in my city," "people from my hometown who like hiking," "friends of friends who have been to Yosemite National Park," "software engineers who live in San Francisco and like skiing," "people who like things I like," "people who like tennis and live nearby"
Photos: "photos I like," "photos of my family," "photos of my friends before 1999," "photos of my friends taken in New York," "photos of the Eiffel Tower"
Places: "restaurants in San Francisco," "cities visited by my family," "Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India," "tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends," "restaurants in New York liked by chefs," "countries my friends have visited"
Interests: "music my friends like," "movies liked by people who like movies I like," "languages my friends speak," "strategy games played by friends of my friends," "movies liked by people who are film directors," "books read by CEOs"