The new Facebook Graph Search: cool, or creepy?

Graph Search

“People use search engines to answer questions. But we can answer a set of questions that no one else can really answer.” Mark Zuckerberg

As part of my role at Open2view I keep an eye on the latest social media trends and work out what they mean for us, and for all of you.

The ol’ thinking cap has been firmly on all day over Facebook’s announcement of their new search engine, to be known as Graph Search.

So what exactly is Graph Search? It is, essentially, a more effective way to search through your friends’ preferences. Oh, and their friends too. Through this you can build on your existing connections, and establish new ones, without having to utter a single word to another person.

It works like this: if you are passing through Hamilton and want to see who of your friends live there, just type in ‘friends who live in Hamilton’. If you wish to find out if any of your workmates want to go on a tramp, just search ‘work friends who like tramping’. (Or you could ask around the office – either way.) If you’re craving Mexican for lunch but don’t know what places are good, your friends might already know – type ‘Mexican restaurants in Hamilton my friends have been to’ and click ‘enter’.

It doesn’t just search your friends. Any friends of friends who have made relevant information available will show up in results too.

That’s where things get interesting. Facebook are well aware, this time round, of people’s privacy concerns. They have been at pains today to stress that any info made private will be treated as such, and will be issuing prompts to users to make sure their privacy settings are all sorted. Kashmir Hill of Forbes has already used Graph Search to show how much of Mark Zuckerberg’s information is publicly available.

Some decrease in privacy is inevitable. Once this product goes live to the masses, it will make Facebook stalking even easier.

Some early reviews have pointed out how Graph Search could even be used for dating. Searching ‘friends of friends in [your town] who are single’ will be good news for some (the person doing the search) and perhaps less pleasant for others (those who appear in the search results).

There are plenty of advantages to being able to search through your friends’ likes, even if they don’t always appreciate it. Let’s expand on the restaurant example, as I’m writing this near lunchtime and I’m hungry.

It has been shown time and again that you are more likely to buy a good or service if one of your friends has already purchased it – and doesn’t regret doing so. Therefore, running a Graph Search to see what eateries your friends are fans of will often give you far more valuable information than going to Google and reading through strangers’ restaurant reviews.

In the official introductory video, Facebook states the purpose of Graph Search is to help you “find people [you] should know.” After that, Facebook’s purpose will be to monetise this to the best of their ability. Nothing wrong with that (they’re a business after all) – just don’t be shocked if/when Facebook rolls out ads that allow pages to promote themselves to the top of any Graph Search enquiry.

If you wish to get on at the ground floor, scroll to the bottom of the Graph Search page and click ‘Join Waiting List’.

What do you reckon – will Graph Search an exciting, revolutionary step forward? Or is this just another win for cyber-stalkers? Have your say below or on our, um, Facebook page.

Check out the introductory video below:

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