Graph Search is Facebook’s Bid to Compete with…Everyone

1/15/13Follow @wroush

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extend access very gradually—so don’t expect to see it turn up the next time you visit the site.

But soon enough, all English-speaking users will be able to access the feature (other languages will come later, as will mobile version of Graph Search). And Zuckerberg made it clear that the capabilities the company showed off today are only the tip of the iceberg.

“In the future there are some very obvious things we want to get to,” he said. That includes indexing all content on Facebook—not just photos and preferences and check-ins, but the text of status updates and everything else people upload to the site. It also means making Graph Search part of Open Graph, the protocol that Facebook uses to allow outside developers and services to access and update the information stored in users’ Facebook accounts.

Once that happens, look for Graph Search to start powering all sorts of new experiences, whether from Facebook or its partners, such as socially savvy virtual personal assistants. Imagine a version of Siri, for example, that understands not just what’s on your iPod playlists or your iCal calendar, but everything your friends are doing and have done. (Well, not literally Siri, since Apple is unlikely to pay Facebook to connect Siri to Graph Search. But many other companies are working on Siri-like AI technologies.)

“Graph Search is the sort of product we love to build,” Zuckerberg boasted at today’s event. “It’s a big technology problem, and it’s also a big social problem. So it’s the kind of product Facebook and our culture are uniquely suited to build.”

Whether Facebook’s engineers are uniquely good at solving computational problems with a social component would, of course, be hard to prove. But it’s indisputable that Facebook has more data to play with—specifically, connected data about people and their preferences—than any other company on the planet. Google is striving to catch up using Google+, which reportedly has more than 135 million active users—but it will be a long time before the typical Google+ profile is as rich or deep as the typical Facebook profile.

That puts Facebook in an extremely powerful position. Microsoft has been smart enough to partner with the social giant: its Bing search engine is integrated with Graph Search and provides Web-based results whenever social results aren’t available. Google had the chance to collaborate with Facebook on Graph Search, but Zuckerberg said talks between the two companies “fell apart” over technical differences about how users’ private data would be indexed.

The breakdown of those talks “may be a symptom of a bigger strategic rift” between Google and Faceboook, Zuckerberg said. Gee, ya think?

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • http://www.carlease.uk.com/ CarLease UK

    “Graph search” seemingly will offer individuals instant group opinion based upon their collective experiences. It sounds like an obvious natural progression from asking a friend/s opinion, but on a larger scale and in an instant. This could be the point at which social media begins to be a major influence in any individual’s commercial decisions, “where did you spend your money…”