Better than a phone: Thoughts on Facebook Graph Search
Facebook Graph Search came out on Tuesday and while the jury is still out on whether it will be a good thing for consumers, I think that broadly speaking it will definitely be a good thing for Facebook. There was a lot of speculation that it was going to be a Facebook phone, which, frankly, I think would have been stupid. Phones are already social and Facebook gains more from being a platform that is accessible anywhere than it does from going outside of its core strengths into a highly competitive field that no one really wants them to be in anyways.
Why do I think this is a good thing for Facebook?
First, (and this is sort of beside the point, but it's been a personal pet peeve of mine) Facebook's search has already sort of sucked. I tried to search for my co-founder Chris McCann on there when I first met him and was greeted with a list of hundreds of Chris McCann's -- all not him. Honestly, LinkedIn's search is much better for trying to find that person that you knew from that thing a while ago because it ranks your search results by how closely connected you are. I'm not sure at all how Facebook ranks searches.
Second, Facebook now has it's foot in the door to start capturing not just the passive interest data that it has been, but also intentional data. One reason that Google is still the dominant advertising platform on the web is because they capture data about what you want when you want it. I wanted an ethical ring for proposing to my girlfriend. I googled it and the top result (an ad) was for a local company that does ethical diamonds. Boom. Ad money. Facebook can now get their foot in there. I'm sure the first version will be pretty rough, but Facebook is genius at guiding users behaviors. More than any company I know, they are masters at saying to the users, "You shall use the service this way" and the users will do so. If they can replicate this with search, they will be doing quite well.
Third, there is a lot more to a search engine than a search box and a list of results. Fundamentally, a search engine represents an intelligent match between intent and information. Google doesn't just give you really good search result and then just slap an ad on the results page. They use the exact same technology to give you great search results as they do to give you great ads. If Facebook has a search engine to search it's social landscape, then they also have a technology to deliver finally relevant ads to users. This is something they've sorely failed at so far in my opinion. From my likes and posts, it should be pretty clear that I lean to the poltical left and yet during this most recent election, I kept seeing only ads for 'Take back the Whitehouse' and 'Stop Obama'. I hope they are in a position to do better.
Whether this will be good for users is an entirely different story. I'm sure many people be annoyed by it, and I'm sure there will be a lawsuit at some point over something that was found that was not wanted to be found. However, I'm not sure how we should even gauge utility when it comes to users and Facebook. It's an odd servie in that everyone is addicted to it, but no one seems to actually like it. Everyone I know from my little sister in high school to my parents, feels that they spend too much time there. I'll have to think more about how to answer that question, if that's even possible.Back to Blog