Facebook’s Graph Search: The third of the three

What is Graph Search?

Graph Search is a really big project. Eventually we want to index all the posts and all of the content on Facebook. I thought it couldn’t be done. This is just some really neat stuff. This is one of the coolest things we’ve done in a while.    -Mark Zuckerberg


‘The coolest’? That is a matter of perspective.

graph search bar
The new graph search


Graph Search is a new, more intelligent version of Facebook’s search engine. It is able to search for information based on natural queries such as “Friends who like Star Wars and Harry Potter” or “Friends of my friends who live in my hometown.” This can be really good for them in an effort to create a more open and connected world. It is a huge improvement in terms of searching power when compared to the old search engine which could only search for people.

It is no hard task to learn to use it, and a tutorial is given the first time you click the ‘Try Graph Search’ button. It does change placements of a few buttons on the bar. Friend requests, messages and notifications buttons have been moved to the right of the search bar, and a few other aesthetic changes.

old search bar
Old search bar

Why is it needed?

According to Facebook, graph search is a better way to search for information. It can search for your friends’ interests, their likes, and friends of friends. It can even search the web if no data is available from inside the website. It can help you connect to people around you in a better way. Searches like “People who live nearby” enlist all the people living in your neighbouring area.

Graph Search vs. Google Search

Google’s web search and Facebook’s graph search are different concepts. Google indexes keywords and across the web and delivers results based on keywords entered into the search bar. The graph search, on the other hand, searches for people, things, etc. The difference actually lies in the basic algorithms. The way these interpret user input is different. Google treats each keyword differently and separately, and delivers search results. It also has additional algorithms which detect words such as definition, weather and other arithmetic functions.


Privacy Concerns

There are huge concerns over graph search among those who chose to get it. Even people with the strongest security enabled on Facebook also can be searched for in search results, which is not something many people prefer. When testing it out, I entered the name of a group and just for fun, I went into searching the girls in that group and to my utter bewilderment, I found myself looking at a random person’s pictures who I did not even have any relation or contact whatsoever. This is not only extremely intrusive but also wrong. And I am pretty sure that it can also be the other way around, them ‘stumbling’ upon my private things. At this point, thinking that someone might use this ‘feature’ for questionable reasons is not surprising. For now, privacy can be a big concern and the people using this search are the ones that cause it, despite Facebook promising claims of privacy.  The only workaround for not appearing on these kind of search results is to completely put every detail of yours, to extremely private levels, as given in the video below.

Any workarounds?

Many people who have opted for graph search want to go back to the old search bar. There is a workaround, though it may be temporary. People generally use Facebook in the language setting of English(US). If you go to your settings (the gear icon on top-right), and change the language to English(UK). This changes nothing on Facebook, but since the beta is only for US(for now), it reverts back to the old scheme. Tried and tested.

Graph Search and other products

Facebook has finally released a beta of the third of its ‘Three Pillar’ products, the Graph Search. I signed up for it about a week ago, and have been testing it. It has both pros and cons, and the response is exactly how it was during the release of its other two products in the ‘Three Pillar’ products – people raging and wanting the old one back, and there is good possibility that like the previous times, people will slowly accept it as a part of Facebook, just like the new News Feed and the Timeline.

I remember the time when they released the new news feed, which displayed data significantly in a different way, and all the hype that was created because of it. People wanted the old one back. Same with the timeline. When it was first introduced, people refused to switch. Many people just did not want to use the feature, but soon everybody learned to. This does not mean people became comfortable with it.

Even today, many people say that if they have an option to either switch back to the old version of Facebook or stick with the new one, there is no doubt that many people will choose to revert. There is no way they can satisfy everyone if they are standardizing something. But this shouldn’t keep them from doing it. The three pillars provide an excellent backbone to Facebook, classifying all they have to improve into three categories. And the graph search can prove to be one of their best features, if they can deliver what they promise. Due to the sheer number of people on Facebook, if done properly, the graph search can be like an online people directory.


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