With Graph Search, We'll See How Important Social Signals Are To Relevance

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On Tuesday, Facebook unveiled Graph Search, an early version of a new kind of social search that will only grow as Facebook adds to it. With this, we should finally get to see just how helpful social signals are to search. It's been a topic of debate, particularly since Google launched Search Plus Your World (its take on social search, tapping into is Google+ network, along with some other less obvious sources), but the problem with Google's social search has always been its lack of social engagement, at least compared to Facebook.

We had a brief discussion with blekko CEO Rich Skrenta on the implications fo Facebook's new offering and social search. He tells us social signals are "critical" for search relevance.

"PageRank originally measured the web's primary social signal -- links," he says. "Facebook has even better social data which would be great for ranking recommendations. And they could be personalized to you, based on your friends."

Since the Graph Search announcement, there have been countless articles dissecting the offering with mixed reviews. Some think it's boring, and some think it's a major new offering from the social network.

Skrenta says, "It's a strong start for what is very intriguing product. I'm sure it will evolve over time as well and become even more interesting."

Of course, much of the conversation has been centered around Facebook competing with Google. Obviously, this isn't going to kill Google out of the box, and it doesn't seem likely that it will kill Google in the long run. That doesn't mean it can't chip away a piece of Google's pie. We discussed that more here.

"Facebook Graph Search addresses a completely new class of searches that you can't do today on Google," says Skrenta. "So I don't think it will affect Google at all."

True enough that Graph Search can tap into a new kind of search, but it does bring along certain kinds of vertical search implications along with it in my opinion, particularly local search. One also has to wonder what it might mean for Bing, which supplements Facebook's search offering with the kind of search it can't provide on its own.

Skrenta wouldn't comment on what it might mean for Bing.

When asked what it might mean for smaller players in search like DuckDuckGo, or his own blekko, Skrenta says, "We love to see innovation around new search products. Facebook has launched something totally new and interesting. I'm eager to see how the product develops over time."

Speaking of new products, Skrenta's blekko launched izik a couple weeks ago, bringing a new approach to tablet search.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

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