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Facebook Graph Search

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Updated January 21, 2013
Facebook, the most popular social networking site on the Web, has rolled out Graph Search, a new feature within the site that will help users to make new kinds of content connections based on information they've already input into the site as a whole.

What is Facebook Search Graph?

Facebook is basically a massive database of tagged entries; tagged photos of your cat, a tag designating the pizza place you checked into last weekend, tags for the roller derby you participated in with your friends from work, etc. Everything is part of a large taxonomy, a giant whirl of content. Facebook Graph Search gives users the ability to cut into that content and take out a meaningful slice. Graph Search indexes four main types of content: people, places, photos, and interests. Users can search across these categories using words that also work as search modifiers:

  • verbs: lives, likes, works
  • nouns: friends, restaurants, New York, pizza
  • prepositions: before, with, or in
  • pronouns:who, him, or her

Using these modifiers, you could come up with searches like "friends who like cats who live in Seattle", or "photos of sushi restaurants in North Dakota". Only content that is publicly available to view is available in Facebook’s Search Graph; in other words, if a user has set their settings to be private, than their information will not show up and their content will not be indexed in the internal search (read more on making your Facebook settings private in How to Block Searches Of Your Facebook Profile).

How about sharing these search results? That's not part of this feature quite yet, and we don’t do this with our regular search engine queries simply because for the most part this data doesn't lend itself readily to a sharing action. But with Facebook’s Search Graph, users receive results that are their own concrete, completed entity. These are going to be interesting results that we are going to want to share with friends, post on our blogs and other social networking sites, such as Pinterest or Tumblr. The potential for social cross- pollination is definitely interesting. However, there are potential privacy implications with sharing this content outside of Facebook; we’ll have to wait to hear more on that as the service evolves.

This huge database of likes, opinions, photos, and more is going to be used to power what is essentially a social search engine, albeit only with results from within Facebook (for now). It will give you the emotional side of search, and possibly be better able to intuit intent than when we look up basic facts. It could eventually challenge LinkedIn for a better job search ("find friends of friends who are engineers with five years’ experience"), Yelp ("friends who like hamburger restaurant in Alaska"), even Google as they move to "open graph", i.e., the traditional Web (and that time is eventually coming, it’s inevitable).

However, Facebook Search Graph is definitely a very different experience than the traditional Web search, which is open-ended and not based on a finite set of data points. The new search, based on what we like, only returns search results that are within the parameters that the searcher specifies, along with what’s going on in their particular node. Right now, that's not a whole lot of data, but that should change as Facebook evolves.

More about Facebook

  • How to Block Searches Of Your Facebook Profile: If you'd rather not have your Facebook profile open to the public, there are ways you can limit who searches for you on this popular social networking site.
  • Facebook Search by Email: Need to find someone, and all you have is an email address? Facebook, the largest social networking site in the world, makes it easy to search for someone.
  • Ten Ways to Search for People on Facebook: Facebook is the largest social networking site on the Web, which makes it a powerful tool for finding people online.
  • How to Access Facebook: If Facebook is blocked from your computer for some reason, here are some tips from About Web Search to get you going on the world's most popular social site.
  • What is a Facebook Wall?: What is a Facebook Wall? Learn more about the most popular social networking and its related terminology at About.com.

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