Facebook announced Graph Search yesterday. From Meghan Kelly at VentureBeat:
When you start typing your questions, Facebook will suggest search queries and clean up your question. You might ask, “Which of my friends like The White House?” and it will simplify and suggest “My friends who like The White House.”
The search could be most useful for situations like finding friends in a specific city you plan on visiting or finding people who like a band you’ve got an extra ticket to see. You can also use it to search for things “nearby.” If you’re looking for friends who live near your current location, you can look for “friends nearby.” If you need a hospital, you should call 911, but you could also search on Facebook, and it shows you the hospitals in your area (while you’re bleeding out, of course).
There’s plenty of other analysis. See this by Danny Sullivan on how it works and just so you’re not getting too carried away, Om Malik does what he does best by digging into practical feasibility of getting this right But lets assume that Facebook does pull it off for a min. In that case….
This is massive for Facebook and Google’s never seen any competition like this. Simply put, being able to choose people as filters to your search is extremely powerful.
That said, two things come to mind as I read this:
First, this is far from a Google killer.
Google still has a lot of runway to get this right. Ultimately we are talking about the war on owning Purchasing Intent. Facebook might have a stronger hold on consumer or B2C products (e.g. “I like this new Viking Stove”), but it’s far from perfect. Personally, I’m really suspect about any search algorithm that puts too much emphasis on “Like”. It has to be the most abused social metaphor of all time – first, we barely think twice before “liking” something. Second, given all the marketing gimmicks to get you to Like stuff, it’s hardly an objective filter. And third, even it they manage to get it right, the whole world of B2B just isn’t part of the conversation on Facebook in any meaningful way. Those conversations are still happening outside Facebook’s walled garden on branded communities. This game is far from over.
The real winner is vertical social networking.
Most significant in my mind though is that the real winner here is vertical social networking. Facebook just bifurcated search forever. They now propose to own the “Here’s what my friends think” segment. The other major segment is “What do the experts think?” And that data is neatly indexed on vertical and topical social networks. Think Yelp, think ChowHound, think WebMD, thin TripAdvisor and the biggest, Amazon Recommendations. The reality is that our friends can often be terrible references. If I’m looking for a great kitchen knife, I want advice from a chef or a seasoned cook. Not just my best pals. And that’s still the work of other topical sites. I use experts lightly but when it comes to serious purchases, you will want to rely as much on unknown strangers who are qualified on a subject as much as you will your friends. And those “unknown experts” passionately opine not on Facebook but on these vertical social networks. Their relevance just went up 100 fold.
As the social web confuses most of us on where to find what and the sources increase by the day, Facebook just added an intense level of clarity by letting you toggle between people you know and people you trust on a topic. And this level of clarity is THE single most risky thing to happen to established web search. Feeding on the ambiguity of sources is what search engines thrive on. If Facebook gets this right, this ambiguity has now been seriously eroded and between what our friends think and what the experts say, we might just have all the information we need to make the purchase.