Facebook Decides To Give Your Info Away For Free With ‘Graph Search’
We’re at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., where the company has invited us to “see what we’re building,” according to the invitation we got last week.
What it’s building: Graph Search, a powerful new search engine which people can use to find people, places, photos, and interests, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.
Engineers demonstrated how the search tools can be used for recruiting, dating, and local-business searches, among others, launching Facebook into competition with a host of companies it hadn’t previously threatened directly.
Hundreds of thousands of people currently have access to the new search tool, a small fraction of Facebook’s user base.
Zuckerberg emphasized that Graph Search was very different from Google and Microsoft’s Web search, though it does use Microsoft’s Bing as a backup when it can’t find relevant answers within Facebook’s databases.
Here’s our blow-by-blow account of the announcement:
5 PM | Zuckerberg is speaking!
He repeats Facebook’s mission, “to make the world more open and connected.”
There are products that help people stay connected, and products that help people make new connections.
People think about Facebook primarily as the former, he says.
1:06 PM | Zuckerberg is announcing a new service!
It uses the Open Graph, Facebook’s database of all the people, objects, and concepts that it tracks. Basically, anything that you can “like.”
1:06 PM | There are “three pillars” of Facebook.
News Feed and Timeline are the first two, he says.
1:07 PM | “Today we’re going to talk about the third.”
“Is it things that my friends like? Is it photos of my friends doing things? Is it places my friends have been to? What’s more interesting than giving people all of these things is letting people query any cut of that database.
1:08 PM | Facebook is unveiling a new search function: Graph Search.
A third pillar of Facebook.
1:09 PM | Graph Search is privacy aware, Zuckerberg says.
“Most of the things people share with you isn’t public.”
1:10 PM | Privacy is computationally intense.
“About 10 percent of our computation in our data centers is privacy checks. No other company in the world has infrastructure like this.”
1:11 PM | Graph Search is not Web search.
Zuckerberg gives an example: “Who are my friends who live in San Francisco?”
1:14 PM | Zuckerberg is showing off a demo.
The search results suggest Facebook has built an autocomplete feature similar to Google’s suggestion, but driven by data from a user’s Facebook friends.
1:14 PM | Apps figure into this.
A search Zuckerberg showed: “Android apps my friends like.”
1:15 PM | Another example:
Zuckerberg wanted to do a TV viewing party for HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” So he searched for “People who live near Palo Alto who like Game of Thrones.” The results are sorted by signals like number of mutual friends.
1:18 PM | Tom Stocky and Lars Rasmussen headed up the project.
Rasmussen was a big hire for Facebook, lured away from Google, where he previously ran Google Maps.
1:19 PM | Stocky is showing off Graph Search.
Graph Search automatically suggests simple phrases that guide the user to the kind of searches it can answer, like “Friends who like Star Wars and Harry Potter.” It’s more structured, less open-ended than Web search.
1:20 PM | Searches actually create a page on Facebook.com.
1:22 PM | When Zuckerberg discussed the project with Stocky and Rasmussen, he declared it “impossible.”
Zuckerberg: “My immediate reaction is that it’s awesome, but it’s impossible. I thought that this couldn’t be done, but like any good Facebook team would do, they took this as a challenge. A few months later they had a version that was basically working.”
1:23 PM | Dating queries!
Stocky: “Now I get the set of single men who are friends of people I’m friends with.”
1:23 PM | No examples of commercial queries yet. That’s interesting.
1:25 PM | Watch out LinkedIn: Stocky gives an example of Graph Search as a recruiting tool.
“Let’s say I want to recruit people from NASA, because you can never have too many rocket scientists.” Stocky searches on NASA employees who are friends of Facebook employees.
1:26 PM | Now Lars Rasmussen is showing off photo search.
1:29 PM | Facebook Graph Search can find photos based on date ranges or locations.
For example, picking an early date displays friends’ baby photos.
1:31 PM | Now we’re getting to “interests”—which could include movies, TV shows, and brands.
This is getting into commercial-intent territory.
1:32 PM | Stocky is emphasizing movie-related searches.
That’s interesting because some Hollywood marketers have soured on Facebook ads recently. New targeting tools based on search could revive their interest.
1:34 PM | Here’s an interesting search: “TV shows liked by software engineers.”
Or “doctors.” This suggests a wealth of demographic and psychographic data that marketers could exploit.
1:37 PM | Now Lars Rasmussen is showing potentially commercial searches.
Dentists and restaurants—location-based “like” data can power local-business searches.
1:40 PM | Very detailed restaurant searches.
For example, Indian restaurants liked by friends who are from India, high-end restaurants liked by friends who have attended the Culinary Institute, bars in Dublin, Ireland, sorted by people who live there.
1:41 PM | So those are the four main things you can search now: people, places, photos, and interests.
1:43 PM | Along with search, Facebook is showing off new privacy tools.
Search can expose photos that had been hidden from users’ Timeline profiles. So Facebook is offering new tools that allow users to untag photos or request that friends take photos down.
1:45 PM | Zuckerberg takes the stage back.
Facebook is aware that people are going to worry about search exposing information that was previously buried in the past—a similar concern that they had when Timeline allowed people to more easily see older updates.
1:45 PM | A new warning on Facebook’s website.
“Please take some time to review who can see your stuff.” The tools allow bulk untagging of photos.
1:46 PM | Bing Web search is a backup if Graph Search doesn’t find a relevant result.
This isn’t a big change: Bing already powers Web search on Facebook today.
1:47 PM | An example of a search that will get answered by Bing: “weather menlo park.”
“I don’t think people are going to come to Facebook to do Web searches,” says Zuckerberg. “But in the event Graph Search can’t find what you’re looking for, this is a good option.”
1:48 PM | Graph Search isn’t mobile today.
That’s because Facebook’s best mobile engineers have been working on rewriting its core iOS and Android apps.
1:48 PM | Today, Graph Search is just English.
More languages to come.
1:48 PM | And it will eventually cover everything on Facebook, including posts and actions from apps.
1:51 PM | Zuckerberg: “Graph Search is the kind of product we love to build.”
“This is who we are. We love building things like this.”
1:52 PM | Q&A!
1:52 PM | Larry Magid asks a privacy question.
“Privacy is going to be one of the big questions people have, which is why we’re trying to get those tools not just built but in front of people before it’s rolled out widely,” Zuckerberg says.
1:53 PM | Facebook’s introduction of new tools like Privacy Shortcuts was a building block for this.
1:54 PM | Tech blogger Robert Scoble asks if there’s an API for app developers.
Zuckerberg: “We’d love to. We have years and years of work ahead of us.” So, for now, no.
1:55 PM | Josh Constine of TechCrunch asks is there will be ads in search.
“This could potentially be a business over time,” Zuckerberg says. He points out that Facebook has had sponsored search results—suggestions that appear as users type queries—for a while, and nothing’s changing with that ad product.
1:56 PM | A tiny fraction of Facebook’s 1 billion-plus users will have access.
Only “hundreds of thousands” of users will have access right away.
1:57 PM | Searches are private.
Users can see their own search history, but it’s not shared with anyone else.
2:00 PM | Zuckerberg: “I would love to work with Google.”
“We want to make search social in general. We think there are different categories of search. Web search is one.”
2:01 PM | The sticking point for working with Google, Zuckerberg suggests, was privacy.
He said he was willing to work with any search engine that respected users’ privacy.
2:03 PM | Jolie O’Dell of VentureBeat asks about infrastructure for search.
“It’s an enormous amount of data,” says Rasmussen.
2:03 PM | No immediate plans for voice search, Zuckerberg says.
2:10 PM | Mike Isaac of AllThingsD asks if Facebook has rich enough location data, versus, say Foursquare.
Zuckerberg points out that Facebook has started asking users to rate restaurants and other local businesses after they check in to get better location data.