On Tuesday, Facebook announced a new feature–Graph Search. The tool, which is currently in beta, will allow users to search the social network’s massive database to find information about peoples’ likes and activities.
The Wall Street Journal’s Elyn M. Rusli And Amir Efrati reported, “After years of collecting photos and personal data from its billion-plus members, Facebook Inc. Tuesday unveiled a search tool that sifts through people’s profiles—and pushes the social network deeper into Google Inc.’s home turf.”
Time’s Harry McCracken explained, “Graph Search lets you enter plain-English concepts that tie together multiple things the social network knows about the people who use it: where they live, where they work, where they’ve taken photos and what things they’ve liked. Among the searches Facebook provides as examples are ‘people who like tennis and live nearby,’ ‘tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends,’ ‘movies liked by people who are film directors’ and ‘friends of friends who have been to Yosemite National Park.’ The results aren’t Google-style links to external sites — they’re Facebook pages for the people, places and other things that match the query. In theory, at least, this new way to find information is both faster and far more personal than a conventional search engine. The notion that we might end up doing most of our interacting with Facebook by searching rather than browsing seems entirely plausible.”
Sayantani Ghoshvwith Reuters noted the business opportunities presented by the new feature, writing, “Facebook Inc’s new search tool has strong potential to generate revenue for the social networking company, though it is unlikely to challenge Google Inc as the world’s dominant search engine, Wall Street analysts said on Wednesday…. BofA Merrill Lynch analysts estimated Facebook could add $500 million in annual revenue if it can generate just one paid click per user per year, and raised its price target on the stock by $4 to $35.”
Datamation columnist Mike Elgan commented on the privacy concerns raised by Graph Search, saying, “Graph Search magnifies everything good and bad about Facebook. It’s Facebook on steroids. To the extent that Facebook is good for connecting with family and friends, Graph Search makes Facebook great for that purpose. To the extent that Facebook is an invasion of privacy, a playground for stalkers, snoops, spammers and scammers, Graph Search makes Facebook great for those purposes also.”