Today, at an event at their Menlo Park HQ, Facebook unveiled ‘what they’ve been working on”: Graph Search.
Graph Search is Facebook’s attempt to improve the site’s search function by giving it a massive makeover. With Graph Search, Facebook says that they want to make it easier to navigate your connections, and make them more useful.
Basically, Graph Search will appear as a modified search bar at the top of each page. From there, users can enter queries like “Friends who live in Lexington and like Quentin Tarantino” or “Indian restaurants that my friends like.” Each query will result in a brand new page of information that is organized by Facebook’s ranking factors to bring you the best results, from within Facebook.
It’s launching in beta (with a slow rollout), and focuses on four areas of information: People, Photos, Places, and Interests.
But it’s clearly not web search. It’s better Facebook search. Sure, Facebook hopes that you choose to search for things within Facebook that you may have previously searched for on Google, to name one engine. But Facebook’s Graph Search isn’t going to be able to provide you with everything you need to know.
“Graph Search and web search are very different. Web search is designed to take a set of keywords (for example: “hip hop”) and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. With Graph Search you combine phrases (for example: “my friends in New York who like Jay-Z”) to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that’s been shared on Facebook. We believe they have very different uses,” says Facebook.
They also made it very clear that they “are not indexing the web.”
For all queries unanswerable by the Graph Search, Facebook is tapping Bing to help. Bing, who is already Facebook’s web search partner will have a key role in the Graph Search.
“As part of this product, our two engineering teams worked together to advance a unified search experience. That means that when people want to search beyond Facebook, they see web search results from Bing with social context and additional information such as Facebook pages,” says Bing Search VP Derrick Connell.
So if you search for something inside Graph Search that Facebook has yet to include – weather, for instance – you’ll be given the option to open up a web search powered by Bing.
The new Bing search within Graph Search will sport a two-column layout, with Bing web results on the left and social information from Facebook on the right, which will include related content from Pages and apps. That differs from the current Bing search within Facebook, which doesn’t feature any additional Facebook content inside.
“We don’t think a lot of people will come to Facebook to do web searches, but if we can’t find what you’re looking for, it’s good to have this,” said Mark Zuckerberg during today’s press event.
As Facebook improves Graph Search (they are adamant about its status as a beta product that will only get better), users may lose the need to perform web searches. At least that’s Facebook’s hope. But for now and for the foreseeable future, Facebook and Bing are partners once again in the former’s latest venture, which they all seem pretty excited about.