Graph Search: Facebook reveals a search engine with the human touch

The rumours were right: Facebook have been sitting on something pretty big.

Yesterday, at a Facebook headquarters in Menlo, California, Mark Zuckerberg spilt the beans. Graph Search (in Beta version): the search engine with the ‘human touch’.

Facebook’s current paltry search bar, which only provides a very basic search function, has always been one of its weak points. The huge amount of information and images on Facebook have largely been untrawlable prior to this point. In fact, to find anything on Facebook, many internet users find it simpler to use Google or another search engine and add the word ‘facebook’ to their search query.

Facebook’s Graph Search vs Google

So does this new feature present a real challenge to Google, as suggested in this post by Sam Biddle on Gizmodo? In its initial promotion, Graph Search certainly suggests it has created a social search; based on networks, shared experience and human nuance of language. If successfully realised, it will achieve a personalisation and usability which engineers at Google have long struggled with.

For example, a Google user might search for ‘new release movie reviews’ and be given a standard and unspecialised selection which does little to take into account the user’s tastes, interests or experiences.

A Graph Search user can created personalised searches based on data collected from the timelines of your social network. So a Graph Search query might look like  ‘new movies my friends like’, or ‘photos of my family from the 1950s’, and even ‘friends from college who like star wars and live in Sydney’.

It may be a while before we Australians get a go at it, but Facebook users can register for the Graph Search trial here (don’t be surprised if this link is non responsive though; our guess is that the traffic will be like a cattle stampede as the day goes on). If Graph Search proves popular, it will provide a range of new considerations for business and new opportunities for search engine optimisation.

Will Graph Search compromise the privacy of Facebook users?

Facebook has been pro-active in their PR response to this question; including the making of the video below. Ultimately, the new search engine will prompt Facebook users to take their security settings more seriously, making active decisions about whether certain interests and photos for example should be visible to anyone via search, or whether they should be restricted to the eyes of friends only.

Until we can get our mits on the Graph Search, it is difficult to know what kind of monster Facebook is breeding. But one thing’s certain – search just got a lot more exciting.

Have you had a chance to give the Beta version a go? Please – let us know in the comments section.