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The internet used to be a place you could come and go as you pleased. Sure, you can go offline and maybe go outside and read a book, but you can never really leave the internet. This is particularly true for the younger generation, notorious addicts of their beloved social media. Even if you’re not online in a physical sense, someone is looking at your Instagram pictures, reading your old tweets, and creeping those Facebook photos of you at the beach last summer. Our e-selves are ever present on the internet and since Facebook recently went over 1 billion users, that’s a lot of information to sort through.
It used to be when you wanted to find something online you’d go to Google and type in some basic keywords like “Chinese food NYC”. The search algorithm understands that you’re looking for Chinese food in New York City and it would come back with the top results. So there you are, you have a list of restaurants to choose from. Websites like Yelp took things a step further by making searches more specific. You can, of course, still search for “Chinese food NYC” but then the results can be sorted by price, rating, reviews, etc.
Facebook search has long been the butt of the joke when it comes to searches. The Facebook search is useful only if you know a name or location. Let’s put together a scenario. You meet a friend of a friend at a party for the first time, we’ll call them Pat for the benefit of all genders reading this. Pat really likes the show Game of Thrones and you talk about it for a few minutes. From the conversation you find out Pat lives in Brooklyn and was at a Yankee’s game last week. You move on to mingle with other guests and don’t see Pat again the rest of the night.
The next day you go on Facebook with the intent of adding Pat as a friend. You type “Pat” into the search bar and get 100,000 results. Ok, let’s hone in more. Change the location to Brooklyn and you still have 5,000 results. You probably don’t have all day to look at every profile picture, so now what?
Enter graph search.
Facebook’s newest innovation is a power move game changer which totally alters the way users search for people or places online. Graph search allows for a more natural way of searching for information. Rather than searching for static nouns such as “Pat Brooklyn”, graph search invites users to search for verb phrases instead. You could type in “Pat in Brooklyn who likes Game of Thrones.” Take it a step further with “friends of friends named Pat in Brooklyn who likes Game of Thrones and was at Yankee Stadium.” You can get incredibly complex with how you search and Facebook still understands what you’re looking for. The whole system is based on likes and check-ins, so the more you and you’re friends are active online, then the better search results will be.
You can even search for status updates and wall posts. “Friends who wished John Smith a happy birthday” would give you a list of friends who wrote on John’s wall for his birthday. The potential is endless. The entire system is built in such a way that as our collective online presence grows, so too will the capability of graph search. Get as specific as “Skis liked by friends who went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming last winter” or “friends of friends who like Bruce Springsteen and live in San Diego, California.”
It’s probably worth noting that Facebook’s new search probably won’t topple Overlord Google as the most used search engine. However, since people are more likely to trust the opinions of their friends over a stranger, graph search could entrench itself with users as a solid number two search option.