If you didn’t volunteer to be one of the first to try out Facebook Graph Search when it was introduced last January, you no longer have to sign up for anything as Facebook is finally rolling out the feature to everyone starting today. All users who have their Facebook profile set to US English will start receiving the update today. If not, you might wait a little bit longer, or else you can still join the waiting list (and see a preview) here.
When Graph Search was first introduced, users could no longer see a white search bar as it was seamlessly integrated within the main blue Facebook bar. Unfortunately, that caused some confusion for more than a few users who thought that Facebook had just removed the ability to search on the social networking service. To make it easier for people, the white search bar has returned, though its been shunted to the far left of the page, with all the other buttons shifting to the right hand side.
Facebook Graph Search
Before you start concluding that Graph Search is Facebook’s answer to Google Search, hold your horses because it doesn’t quite work that way. Graph Search relies on phrases, not keywords, to identify a set of people, places, photos or other content that’s been shared on Facebook within your social graph. It focuses on people, photos, places, and interests, and you can start your search by entering phrases such as “my friends that like music,” or “Chinese restaurants that my friends like,” or “places my family has been to.” Though it’s not a web search engine, it functions like Google Search in the sense that it gives you more refined search results or suggestions based on your query.
At the AllThingsD conference last May, COO Sheryl Sandberg stated that they’ve been getting a lot of feedback and suggestions as to how Graph Search can be improved. She stated that those who like the feature are using the service 25 percent more, while those that weren’t happy with it chose to use Facebook mobile apps and were quite happy with Cover Feed and Chat Heads.
“Over the past few months, tens of millions of people have helped improve the product just by using it and giving feedback,” Facebook said in a blog post which will be published today.
What good is Graph Search for?
If you have tons of photos on your Facebook account, chances are if you wish to find a specific photo, you find yourself having to browse through dozens of albums just to locate it. With Graph Search, you can easily find the photos you are looking for, especially if you’ve previously tagged them or put more information on the album.
But does it really work? Not all the time. Looking for my own photos wasn’t that easy - I even checked tags and labels first before searching just to be sure, but no luck in that area. If you type in “Places I visited” you might be a bit shocked as to what places you’ve been to. In the results presented to me, there were five places I’ve never been to.
Clicking on the “Find restaurants nearby” I was presented with bars and restaurants that aren’t even in the 5-mile radius of where I’m at. At least the “People I may know” suggestion is spot on, as it recommends people who are acquainted to my friends on Facebook – but of course, this feature itself isn’t really a new one.
In all fairness, Graph Search feels a bit glitchy, but then it’s still quite new so it may take some time to ‘bed in’. With any luck, after a few weeks it’ll be a whole lot more reliable and actually turn out to be a very useful new service for FB fans.