Last week, Facebook sent out a mysterious invitation to various media outlets, which simply said, "Come and see what we're building," and invited them to come to Facebook headquarters on January 15 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time.
Of course, this led to a TON of speculation around the Internet as to what it could possibly be, including an overhaul of the newsfeed, a Facebook phone or maybe a new ad system.
So now that the big day has finally come, just what was the mystery announcement after all?
My prediction came true! Facebook, as I speculated it would last year, is finally getting into search, with new product called Graph Search.
"Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected. The main way we do this is by giving people the tools to map out their relationships with the people and things they care about. We call this map the graph. It's big and constantly expanding with new people, content and connections. There are already more than a billion people, more than 240 billion photos and more than a trillion connections," Tom Stock, Director of Project Management, and Lars Rasmussen, Director of Engineering, wrote in a blogpost Tuesday.
"Today we’re announcing a new way to navigate these connections and make them more useful. We’re calling it Graph Search, and it starts today with a limited preview, or beta."
The way Graph Search works is different from regular Web search. With Graph Search, what user chooses to search for will determine the results the user gets, but, in addition, it will also serve as a title for the page. The user can then edit the title, and create their own custom view of the content that they, and their friends, have shared on Facebook. Graph Search will appear as a bigger search bar at the top of each page.
If that seems a bit confusing, you're not alone. Here how Facebook attempts to make it clearer:
"Graph Search and web search are very different. Web search is designed to take a set of keywords (for example: “hip hop”) and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. With Graph Search you combine phrases (for example: "my friends in New York who like Jay-Z") to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that's been shared on Facebook. We believe they have very different uses."
The essential difference between the Web search and Graph Search is that Web search gathers information about things, while Graph Search gathers information about people. And while that may scare some users, Facebook says that it built its search engine with privacy in mind, and that information that was made private will not come up in Graph Search results.
The search engine is only available in English right now, and only a small amount of Facebook content is availab le to be searched for. Posts and Open Graph actions, such as songs that people listened to on Spotify, can't be searched yet, but will be available in the next few months.
Right now the search engine focuses on four main categories:
- People: “friends who live in my city,” “people from my hometown who like hiking,” “friends of friends who have been to Yosemite National Park,” “software engineers who live in San Francisco and like skiing," "people who like things I like," "people who like tennis and live nearby"
- Photos: “photos I like,” “photos of my family,” “photos of my friends before 1999,” "photos of my friends taken in New York," “photos of the Eiffel Tower”
- Places: “restaurants in San Francisco,” “cities visited by my family,” "Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India," “tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends,” “restaurants in New York liked by chefs," "countries my friends have visited"\
- Interests: “music my friends like,” “movies liked by people who like movies I like,” "languages my friends speak," “strategy games played by friends of my friends,” "movies liked by people who are film directors," "books read by CEOs"
There are reasons why Facebook getting into search could either be a genius, or a boneheaded, move. You can read more of my thoughts about this here.
Facebook's stock is up 0.11% on Tuesday, trading at $30.98 a share.
(Image source: http://newsroom.fb.com)