Social media giant's search engineering lead on developing Facebook's Graph Search and why it won't be another Google Wave.
On Wednesday, Zuckerberg and Rasmussen showed the rest of the world an early beta version of the feature called Graph Search. The term refers to “the social graph,” Zuckerberg’s omnibus term for the database of links inside a social network.
For today, Graph Search is a natural language query inside a Facebook search box. It uses a limited vocabulary focused on people, places, photos and interests.
Among the demo queries:
Restaurants in San Francisco my Indian friends like (Look out Yelp)
Friends of my friends who are single men in Palo Alto born in India (Look out eHarmony)
Project managers who are founders and friends of Facebook employees (Look out recruiters)
TV shows liked by software engineers (Top item: The Big Bang Theory)
Music liked by people who like Mitt Romney (Top item: Johnny Cash)
Zuckerberg called such graph searches the third pillar for Facebook after its news feeds and timelines. He said it would be the basis of the social networking giant’s long term future.
But Graph Search is starting slow with a few hundred or thousand beta users with queries using a limited vocabulary in four confined domains—people, photos, places and interests. “We will roll this out very slowly [because] we need to get data on how people will use it,” said Zuckerberg in a press conference at Facebook headquarters.
Even if users love it, there are mountains of data to index before users can search data from posts and in languages beyond English, for example. “It will take years to index a map of the graph and what’s out there,” Zuckerberg said.
Nevertheless, he was bullish. “This is one of the coolest things we have done in awhile,” he said, wearing his signature black hoodie. “Graph search is a completely new way for people to get information on Facebook,” he said.
I traveled extensively around the world and the first rule is: Never visit a restaurant that's advertised in the booklet left in your hotel room (unless you want a so-so meal).
I'll ask at the hotel's front desk where's a good place to eat. When they come back with the standard recommendations from the hotel book, I immediately follow up with 'Where would you personally eat?' and the responses are ALWAYS different. Locals tend to know the best meals, deals & places to go. Brochures only promote those that paid to attract business. Great places don't need to advertise because word of mouth will keep them open or close them down. Locals are the key because they live there and visit these places themselves.
Sure, I could check someones facebook page and hope they recommended something in the town I'm visiting ... call me old fashioned, but I'd rather talk to them directly about the full experience. That way, I can better understand why they rated it high or low.
@Frank---absolutely right. I always asked what do the locals do, and followed there.. I ask my friends and recently scour places like Reddit or Facebook what _they_ like to do in their town because, obviously, they aren't going to follow standard guide advice.
There is great potential here, but it sounds like it may take years to realize that potential.
Graph Search does however, seem like an essential "third pillar" for Facebook. One of the biggest problems with the timeline & newsfeed is their linear chronological nature. In theory, one could scroll down indefinitely through his newsfeed or a friend's timeline to look for a past event of interest, but that is far too cumbersome and time-consuming for most people.
In addition to the examples mentioned in the demo, vacation travel is another good one that comes to mind. If I'm planning a trip somewhere, I would find it very useful to be able to search my FB friends to find out who has been there, where did they stay, etc., and then contact them for advice and recommendations. Such personal recommendations from trusted sources are an advertiser's dream.
Thinking beyond the initial release of this function, it looks like Facebook is venturing beyond the search into "Search-based Applications". I've been learning about this through Exalead, a company that was acquired by Dassault Systemes (where I work). It's been very interesting learning about SBAs. What I've learned from experience and from customers over the years is that getting data into a system is one problem, but the key value is how to get information out of a system. The more intelligence that can be added to that process, the more useful the data. Pretty cool and useful stuff. Feel free to check in with the Exalead team. But I applaud the efforts.
Well put, I see it more of a way to monetize personal searches. If I can strategically place an ad/link for a product that one of my friends has talked or posted about, then chances are I'm more likely to click on it. And since facebook really has no real revenue source, you can bet your shareholder equity that this is a no brainer.
Facebook has the unique position of OWNING all the personal data that you're willing to post about yourself. Age, maritial status, sex, location, likes, dislikes, friends, hobbies ... you name it. It's a marketer's wet dream. Monetizing that information is one of the biggest reasons for facebook having its IPO. Social Graph is merely one step in the process.
I see two sides of this coin:
Facebook has some wonderfully personal data sets tied to the hearts and minds of its users.
But those data sets are inherently subjective, limited to Fbook users.
In any case, I am interested in the software workloads that are driving 1) the cloud and 2) software engineering and Facebook is one of a handful of the big drivers.
Google's search engines have totally sucked as a useful tool over the past couple of years.
You can have your "personal" road for search - as an engineer, I don't want anything do with anything that's not UNBIASED, unpaid-for, facts and, preferably, is as socially devoid of BS as the machines I build.