Graph Search: Facebook Rolls Out Radical New Social Tool

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Graph Search earlier this year, a new way for users of the social network to access information. Considered the network’s third pillar, along with its News Feed and Timeline, Graph Search is based on Facebook’s social graph, which is essentially a map of more than a trillion connections between users. After six months of beta testing, the product is now available to those who use the American English version of the site.

“At the moment, the way that most Facebook users glean information is through the News Feed, which bubbles up a combination of new and algorithm-favored posts from friends into a single stream, or by peering directly at someone’s Timeline for a more detailed look at his or her life,” reports The New Yorker.

“Graph Search fundamentally alters the way that information comes to the surface; it turns every profile inside out, spilling its guts to tailored searches,” explains the article, citing examples of searches such as “2007 photos of my college friends” or “my work friends who like Yeezus.”

“Developing a sophisticated search feature is vital to Facebook’s long-term success, both to deepen users’ engagement and to make it more appealing to advertisers,” suggests The New York Times.

Engineers of the tool have been working on a number of hurdles, such as understanding the variety of ways different people use language and adapting the algorithms to consider the many ways people typically express their interests.

“Experts say that Facebook’s technical achievement so far is impressive,” notes NYT. “Privacy could still be an issue, however, as more user data becomes easily accessible. Also, the feature is dependent on Facebook users volunteering more information about their likes and dislikes.”

Despite radically changing the nature of information’s availability, Facebook has carefully stated that Graph Search respects all user privacy settings.

“Facebook’s Graph Search is still a work in progress, as company officials are quick to acknowledge. Its recognition of synonyms and related topics is spotty,” reports NYT. “It cannot yet find information in status updates, a top request from users. It does not yet incorporate information from third-party apps like Yelp or Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. And the new search tool is not available on Facebook’s mobile apps, which are increasingly the way that people use the service.”