Earlier this week, Facebook announced that it is developing a search feature for the information contained on its website. Currently you can search for names of people or businesses on Facebook, but you can’t search for all of your friends who liked the movie “Les Miserables” or who live nearby and like sushi.
That’s about to change.
What Is the New Facebook Search?
While traditional search engines such as Google allow us to search for websites, images, maps, news, mathematical formulas and even recipes, Facebook’s new search, called Graph Search, will allow you to search information provided by your friends, your friends’ friends, and anyone else whose information you have access to on Facebook. You’ll be able to find information about:
The search categories are limited to those four categories initially but eventually you’ll be able to search for other information, such as information in their Timeline posts or News Feeds (for example, “which of my friends have listened to Jay-Z on Spotify?”).
Graph Search also allows you to search for people based on their stated profession, marital status, location and other profile information. Facebook could be used as a employment search tool similar to LinkedIn or as an online dating site. You could use Facebook Graph Search for travel information, for example, searching for pictures of Paris from your friends who have visited and/or lived there.
If Facebook search doesn’t produce any results (let’s say none of your friends have pictures of Paris on their Timelines), your search automatically will go to Bing. Facebook has partnered with Bing to provide search results when Facebook search doesn’t provide results, saving you from having to do a second search on the Internet.
Want to find out which friends have tastes most similar to yours? Search for “people who like things I Like.”
For examples of Graph Search results, check out Mashable’s 10 Things We Learned From Facebook’s Graph Search.
Because there is no Dislike button, you won’t be able to search for your friends who don’t like peanut butter, Angelina Jolie’s dress at the Academy Awards, or the name that Will and Kate choose for their new baby (or babies?).
The search results will also be limited to the content on Facebook. Looking for your local friends’ favorite plumber? You may be out of luck, a plumber will only show up in your Facebook Graph Search results if that plumber has a Facebook page.
Do Your Friends Like to “Like”?
Your Graph Search results will also depend on how active your friends are on Facebook. If your friends regularly Like their favorites, your search results will be more valuable than if your friends rarely go on Facebook.
TechCrunch has implied that Graph Search may confer upon us a social duty to Like our favorite things to improve our friends’ search results on Facebook. Facebook Graph Search Makes Privacy Seem Selfish
Before you panic that suddenly your preference for _________ (fill in the blank with your most embarrassing Like on Facebook) will now appear in public search results, know that Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, assured reporters that nothing that wasn’t made public before will become public on Graph Search. “Nothing is visible now that wasn’t before,” said Zuckerberg at the press conference launching Graph Search.
What This Means for You
If your privacy setting is restricted to friends only, then only your friends will see your Facebook information in their search results. If your settings allow the public or friends of friends to see your Facebook information, then those people will see your information in their search results.
If you embrace the idea of Facebook searches, you may want to make your Timeline more public. You may want your Likes to matter even more than before. Check out Mayura de Silva’s article, Let Anyone Follow Your Social Updates on Facebook to make your Timeline updates available to anyone, without having to bother with actually friending them on Facebook.
On the other hand, if you want to be certain that your Timeline posts are restricted only to your Facebook friends, you should check your privacy settings now. 3 Privacy Settings You Must Change Before Using Facebook Graph Search from Gizmodo explains how to make sure your current, past and future posts are private.
Getting Started with Facebook Search
If you want to give Facebook Graph Search a try, well, you can’t do that quite yet. Facebook isn’t making this available to everyone right away. Instead, it’s asking for volunteers to try it out in Beta, a testing phase, so it can squash the bugs before making it available to all members. If you want to volunteer, go to Facebook sign up and cross your fingers that you’ll be among the first to test it.
Reactions in the press have been extremely mixed, with some claiming that this is a game-changer from Facebook (see, Slate‘s Look Out, Google: Facebook Unveils Personalized Search Engine), while others aren’t nearly as impressed with Facebook’s news (see, Facebook’s ‘Graph Search’ No Google Killer by The Fiscal Times).
What do you think about Facebook Graph Search? Are you excited to use this feature? Vote in today’s Wonder of Tech poll and let us know your thoughts!
Facebook’s Graph Search will provide us with a new way of finding out information about friends’ photos, places and interests. While the search results won’t be as broad as a those from a traditional search engine, Facebook’s results may be more personal, and perhaps more valuable, to you.
Have you signed up to test Facebook Graph Search? Do you think this will have an impact on Google? Are you changing your privacy settings? If so, are you making your Facebook more or less public? Will you Like more things to improve your friends’ Graph Search results? Let us know in the Comments section below!