Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Facebook wants to be a social search engine

Facebook made its official announcement that they are launching its Graph Search.  It will be available on limited users for pilot testing and based on experiments Facebook will roll it out to more users.

Here's what Facebook had to say about their Graph Search:

And here's what Forbes reporters who were at the announcement had to say:

Many people are asking whether Facebook Graph Search will move the needle for Facebook bottom line.  Whether people will start using it to find useful information from their social graph, whether it will cause people to share more given that the information is now searchable, whether businesses will be more interested in coming to Facebook to advertise, I don't think anyone knows.

What is clear is that Facebook is getting serious about the search.  Zuckerberg seems to show his resolve to go long haul to claim social search as one of Facebook signatures, second to News Feed and Timeline.  No wonder it scared Yelp investors in the wake of this announcement.

But whether Facebook will be successful in attracting users to make the social searches is not so clear.  Facebook's data is only as good as what users share on the network.  The Facebook's challenge is to figuring out how to maintain and improve users sharing their likes and interests with wide enough permissions so that social search can use without bumping into privacy concerns.  Going directly against user privacy is not the place Facebook wants to be as Instagram has found out recently.

I think for Facebook search makes perfect sense.  It's a good way to address the Facebook-as-the-bar problem, that is Facebook is where people hang out with other friends but without any intent to look for something to do or buy.

The question that I have is if Facebook users will come to Facebook to search on friends, or use other tools to find out what friends are interested.  I still get Meetup requests via email and LinkedIn group invites to organize some events.  Can Facebook attract users away from those services?

There are a lot to prove still for Facebook.

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