Graph Search from Facebook (beta) (http://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch). The idea is cool, but not necessarily new. Allow users to search the way they speak. “which of my friends likes skiing in Colorado.”
Natural language search has been in development for years. It has yet to live up to its potential. What makes Facebook different is the correlated data that it can use to make this happen, for now.
If you look at facebook graph search, it is very limited, and intentionally so. Find friends in cities, who have an interest in certain things, or find their photos. This is easier to do (okay, relatively speaking), since the data is very well structured. The scope of findable content is defined in Facebook profiles, or based on commonly appearing terms in friends’ posts. With so many users providing information in the same way, the frequency and density of the data is what makes this possible.
For now, it will be cool. Easier for users to do what they try to do with facebook… connect to people. Because similar data has amassed among a billion users, it is much easier to correlate and deliver the results. It is the common use cases that appear on FB that make this possible.
But, for businesses, this is going to be harder. The density of the common data is far lower. So, as Facebook graph search rolls out, a search like “nike shoes in [my town]” is no more likely to have a history on FB as it is on Google. In fact less, because people use them differently, and that is going to be the challenge for businesses.
Add to this that (it appears) “likes” are going to play a big role in the results, and your common data elements becomes even harder to find.
For the short and mid-term, I don’t see Facebook Graph Search as much more that helping people do “facebook stuff”. Even in the long term, Facebook must confront the issue that the search results won’t be good until there is significant data and usage, and there won’t be significant data and usage until the results are good. Its about changing ingrained habits.
So, if, as the hype would suggest, FB Graph Search will become a competitor to Google, what will Facebook to do jump start the quality of the commercial search results?