Will we ‘Graph Search’ instead of Google search soon?

Graph Search is a recently announced feature from Facebook and it’s potentially a game changer in the search category, currently dominated by Google.  Getting people to utilize a new search tool within Facebook, is all aimed at keeping them within the platform, where the company can monetize their presence through targeted business advertising tied back to their search results. Facebook has compiled an incredible graph of aggregated data, that when combined with search, has the ability to deliver very personalized results based on your profile and your friend’s experiences.

Suddenly a Google search could go from yielding 1,000 results for “Best restaurant in Paris” to perhaps the top 5 as aggregated by recommendations based on your friend’s personal experiences. That in it self is a pretty compelling draw, but if you add an additional layer of localized search enabled from mobile devices, where your physical proximity, is further aggregated with results to suggest the restaurant recommended by friends that is within walking distance at that very moment, that is the wholly grail. It is at that point that search not only becomes personal, but also location based, and in an increasingly mobile web environment, that is where all this is headed.

Local services such as lawn care, roofing, decorating, plumbing, dry cleaning or shoe repair have not by and large, adopted Facebook pages and social media campaigns yet. However, search tied to location and aggregated data, including friend’s recommendations, could dramatically change that. Want to find a roofing company that did work for your neighbours and was recommended by your friends? You’ll be able to do that on Facebook. Makes a simple Google search for roofers and Vancouver, where I live, seem passé.

Google of course is the king of search. However, Facebook took a shot at them when they declared, “The difference between web search and Graph Search is that Graph Search shows you the answer and not links to answers.”

One benefit to marketers is that Facebook will be conditioning its billions of users to search for what they’re looking for, thus divulging intent, something they have never before been able to capture. The combination of social context (what your friends like) and intent (what you’re looking to buy) will make it possible for advertisers to take Facebook’s already amazing targeting to the next level.

I’m not sure where all this leaves Google+ but I would be very surprised to not see Google attempt to unite their own properties in a similar offering.

It’s a high stakes game, and this major move by Facebook puts them squarely in Google’s search territory. Currently Graph Search is in Beta form available to limited users. That won’t last long.

Look out. This could get interesting.

Mary Charleson


  1. Interesting. I did not look at it in this way. I was worrying that with this new search engine there would be less or even no more privacy, and the number of bullying issues will increase even more than before. However, from now on, I will look forward to see what will happen in terms of local businesses’ improvement and Google attempt. Thanks.

  2. This is a very interesting article and I have previously written about the future of search, the web, and technology in general, so there are a lot of opinions I want to share.

    Graph Search is a marketing spin on the existing concept of AI search. The “algorithm” that was mentioned in our Thursday class has evolved from being a complicated formula to now a software designed to simulate AI. The most successful example in consumer electronics is Siri, the software acquired by Apple in April 2010.

    “The difference between web search and Graph Search is that Graph Search shows you the answer and not links to answers.”

    This quote, in context, is correct. However, Google Search is no longer just web search. Google Search as a product has also been evolving with the times to incorporate AI elements. After beta testing in Google Labs, some experiments graduate to be silently integrated into Google Search. In earlier days, users began solving mathematical equations and computing currency exchanges by typing in the search box. Now, users can type in many questions regarding release dates, event dates, birthdays of well-known people, and other facts to get the answers on top of the search results.

    In the mobile space, Google’s AI efforts are found in the newer versions of the Android platform as Google Now.

    To market Facebook’s new search product as Graph Search is only an effort to differentiate itself from competitive offerings. This is similar to how Apple “reinvented” the phone. Before the iPhone, touchscreen smartphones already exist but were more difficult to use and not marketed to general consumers. So while the concept behind Graph Search is not new, Facebook would like users to believe it is. Can Facebook make search new and exciting as Apple did with smartphones? That depends on whether Facebook can add feature valuable to the customers as Apple did.

    Taking a step back to look at the nature of search, I would define three categories that people generally search for – businesses (products and services), information (facts and opinions), and content (media such as pictures, music and video).

    Graph Search seems most applicable to only the search of businesses – as most of the examples used in your article would suggest. The search of businesses can be broken down into large international/national businesses, local/regional chain businesses, and the mom-and-pop stores. As the product, Graph Search, matures, it is reasonable to assume that larger businesses will benefit from the increased exposure their businesses naturally attract due to their larger customer/client base. This causes a cyclical effect that pushes larger businesses higher on the “recommended” list as more of your friends would have Liked those businesses. The mom-and-pop stores will therefore fall to the bottom of the list again.

    Location based search will only help businesses that provide service limited geographically, such as restaurants, roofing, plumbing, etc.

    After an amount of time, the equilibrium will return to close to what it is now. Instead of corporations hiring SEO specialists to bump up their businesses higher on the search result, Facebook users will do that for them.

    In the grand scheme of search, Graph Search, right now, adds little to move the industry forward as only a small number of local businesses from certain industries will benefit.
    The challenge ahead for Facebook is to give more weight to the Likes for smaller businesses to give them proper representation. The Likes, if weighted proportionally to the size of the business, will help smaller businesses climb up the search results. For example, when a business with 500 employers and 50,000 Likes will be ranked the same as a business with 5 employers and 500 Likes, then the playing fields will be equal. But I’m sure Facebook knows, what is not good for big businesses is not good for them either.

    Perhaps I am skeptical of Facebook adding any value to me as a user by entering into the search business. Facebook has helped me discover products and services but through friends’ personal status updates and profile content, rarely what they Liked.

    Search is big business and if Facebook wants enter and monetize Graph Search, they have to be careful how they do it. By bumping sponsored businesses, they can get into trouble in anti-trust waters, as Google and Microsoft’s Bing demonstrated over the years. But I’m sure they know that too.

    As for what we discussed in class about how some people won’t want others to know they Liked something years ago, my guess is that Facebook will have a purge option to only show Likes from a time range if user desires.

    • Thanks for your great insights. You’ve really added to some of the background understanding on this. It could well be that this is Facebook actually playing catch up to Google on some level with AI search. They certainly wouldn’t be the first company to take an idea, put their own marketing spin on it, and appear to be the progressive innovators! But what makes it so powerful is that it obviously is a play to keep people within their platform, thus increasing the effectiveness of paid advertising served to users with demonstrated intent to purchase, given their search. Based on the sheer volume of Facebook users, the financial impact could be significant. Since going public their tactics have definitely shifted to monetization. It will be interesting to see how and if Google responds.

      I hope you continue to share your thoughts.

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