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Geek by profession, thinker/writer/artist by passion. Part-time blogger,social media enthusiast and a tramp by nature :) A Man Of Mud


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Facebook Takes The Next Step With Graph Search #in

Graph Search Icon
Few hours back Facebook introduced Graph Search which could truly be the biggest innovation Facebook has introduced since its inception. Graph Search will provide a unique way to find information on people, places, photos etc. What excites me is the fact that it doesn't seem to challenge Google in a big way. Of course, the feature was introduced only few hours back and is not available to general users so it may be too early to make such statements but it is the respective motto of both the Internet giants that suggests it. While Google has always said its aim is to "organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful" Facebook says its mission is to make the world more open and connected. Of course neither is being truthful but the fact remains that Google has always wanted to organize information, Facebook wants to connect people, their interests, places.

Graph Search is based on data created  by users while interacting with other users by simply socializing, having similar interests and sharing them, tagging photos, checking in places  and more but till now the information was useful in real-time mostly. Over the years we users have punched in mountains of data while simply interacting with our friends, endorsing favorite brands, checking in to places and sharing links and content related to specific subject and the like. This unimaginably voluminous amount of data can also be analyzed and intelligence extracted based on it. This is not a new concept but its mostly businesses and researches who have applied these techniques and mostly on limited things represented in numbers.

Facebook's endeavor seems to be to use similar techniques to discover relationship between users. In fact Facebook's social graph (a collection depicting the relationship between users) is the largest dataset in the world. But it is the Interest graph that seems more promising. If Social Graph depicts how people  on web are related to each other, Interest Graph which emphasizes on the interests of the users. People bonding with each other because of sharing same interests are likely to be more productive than people who connect with each other because they know each other in physical world.

Social Graph
Social  Graph [src: wikipedia]
Each dot represents a person
However, Facebook's Open Graph sought to add some aspects of Interest Graph to it's Social Graph by including not just users but other elements too such as photos, events etc which were treated as objects and allowed to be used on their web sites. The purpose behind this was to get understand of relationships not just between users  but also between users and non-user objects such as photos. brand pages,blogs etc.  which represented interests. With Facebook Places, yet another aspect to the relationship was added.Although Facebook had been sitting on a treasure trove of user data, retrieving meaningful data was not easy.

Facebook Graph Search is likely to change that, for example if you are looking for good restaurant in a city you are visiting and your friends have previously checked in a particular restaurant. T Graph Search can help you find that particular restaurant. It is not a good example I know* :P  I just want to write these before being exposed to the avalanche of news and opinion that would follow and influence mine ;)

Before concluding I must say that at the moment Graph Search seems to be way smart but geared more towards consumer culture and based on social objects, as opposed to Google  which crawls and indexes web page content. A very fundamental difference between the two is that while search engines return a list of link to a search query, Graph Search is meant to give answers. It also means that Facebook may have also found an online ad-based monetizing model. As I said in the beginning, Facebook wants to connect people while Google's motto is to organize world's information. May be they should stick to their strengths....

*You can find better examples here http://newsroom.fb.com/News/562/Introducing-Graph-Search-Beta
For preview visit https://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch

Note:  Graph Search isn't available yet but even when it does initially it would allow search in four categories only - People, Photo, Places, Interest