Facebook held their special media event today, and while everything from Facebook Messenger for iPad to a Facebook phone was rumored, what we got instead was Social Graph Search. Unlike Google, which indexes websites and web content, Facebook is indexing everything your connections do and like, and providing a natural language, textual way to query it. Here's what Facebook has to say about it:
search for something, that search not only determines the set of results you get, but also serves as a title for the page. You can edit the title – and in doing so create your own custom view of the content you and your friends have shared on Facebook.
"Which restaurants do my friends in San Francisco enjoy?" is one example of the kind of question you can ask. "Show me photos of uncle Phil from before 2007 is another. If that sounds a lot like how you talk to Siri, but for social, that's because it is. And given that, since iOS 6, Apple has integrated with Facebook for sharing and limited data, like contact information, it teases the question -- will Facebook and Apple work out a deal that lets Siri access Social Graph Search?
Being able to hold down the Home button and ask a question would be much faster than unlocking a device, launching an app, and typing in one. And it certainly would be cool. But as much as I'd enjoy that as a tech demo, there are some other things to consider.
For example, none of my real-world friends or family use Facebook. A lot of my co-workers and acquaintances do, but most of them don't share the kind of information that they'd need to to give Social Graph Search any real value. That's a huge potential deal-breaker.
I'm the same way. I don't check in on Facebook. I don't tell Facebook which places or movies I like. I don't post photos to Facebook. I do my best to give them as little personal data about myself as I can. And that means I add little to no value to Social Graph Search.
Since Facebook's business is our data, I'm a lousy user. Maybe they're hoping the coolness of Social Graph Search, or the peer pressure from my social circle wanting to use it and know this stuff, encourages me to share more. Maybe the new prompts to share information that they're rolling out ahead of Social Search actually work in getting more people to share more things.
However, that and challenging Google for our attention with Social Graph Search the way Google challenged Facebook for our attention with Google+ are about the only reasons I can see Facebook investing the time, talent, and money necessary to bring this service to market.
Obviously they believe it has a shot. I'm not convinced yet. What do you think? Would you use Social Graph Search? And more importantly, would you share enough of your location, like, and photo data to make it valuable to your friends, knowing Facebook's business is based on that data?
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