Facebook Graph Search – Just a Fix for an Awful Internal Search Feature?
It was a hotly anticipated announcement. When Facebook sent out its somewhat mysterious press invite encouraging journos and tech bloggers to turn up and ‘see what we’re building’ many were expecting big things. Gizmodo were amongst many online publications speculating about the potential launch of the previously rumoured Facebook phone. After a Mashable journalist discovered that you could now pay $100 to inbox Mark Zuckerberg, there was speculation about the announcement being related to a paid messaging service. Maybe the announcement would be a whole new search engine to rival Google? Or a revolutionary redesign to timeline?
Cue drum roll please as, on 15th January at an event attended by journalists from across the globe, Facebook announces…….. ‘Hey, we’ve made our search less shitty!’
Ok, so maybe not in those exact words. But let’s ‘face’ it, that’s effectively what social graph is. With this new ‘social search’ you will effectively be able to make natural language searches relating to your friends. So, for example, you might search ‘bars my friends go to,’ to see a list of bars your friends have frequented. Or you might search ‘friends who like the Killers,’ to see friends who are into the band.
That’s all good and well and everything but it didn’t really warrant all the mystery did it. For some time, the internal search feature on Facebook has been hideously sub-standard. This is effectively just a fancy fix with a fancy name. It’s like Apple trying to dress up changing the iPhone connector by calling it ‘LIGHTNING’ and making a song and dance about it. Except that Apple can (almost) pull it off.
I wasn’t the only one underwhelmed, it seems, as Facebook’s share prices dropped 3% following the announcement.
A Challenge to Google?
This is immediately being dubbed as some sort of challenge to Google. I see it as less of a ‘challenge’ and more of a dirty look from across the room, really. Yes, it might rival Google’s ‘search plus your world,’ but will it rival Google search? No!
Back in August 2012, Google confirmed that it handles 100 billion searches per month! That’s phenomenal. And are people just using Google to find out things about their own friends? NO! Are they hell. They’re using it to research information, find products, services and entertainment listings (amongst others). Would I search amongst my friends to find out what time a cinema showing is starting in Manchester? No. Cos they’d say ‘I dunno. Google it.’
Social search has its place. We all like recommendations from friends, after all. But, by the same token, we also like access to unlimited information too. None of my friends are likely to hold the answers to everything I search in a single day in Google. So social search is not, in my view, a real challenger to Google at this stage.
In fact, the whole announcement was a bit like sitting down on Christmas morning to open a present you’re sure is a shiny new iPhone… and finding out that you only got the box. Disappointing.