Today, Facebook announced Facebook Graph Search. It arrived following a week or so of fervent chatter about a 'big announcement' from the social network giant, which also rumoured a news feed overhaul and a smartphone device - neither of which materialised.
Facebook Graph search allows users to search for people, things, and places their friends and friends of friends are interested in, as a way of making new connections and experiencing new things. The new search bar relies heavily on “Likes” and other connections to determine what to show as the most relevant search results for each user. It also offer a number of search filters — the ability to search based on the vast user data that Facebook has in its system. As the company puts it:
"Facebook Graph Search and web search are very different. Web search is designed to take a set of keywords (for example: “hip hop”) and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. With Graph Search you combine phrases (for example: “my friends in New York who like Jay-Z”) to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that’s been shared on Facebook. We believe they have very different uses."
Search results will be personalized, although Facebook says that more generic queries should produce fairly common results for most people. Importantly, search results won’t reveal anything that was previously kept private; you’ll only be able to search for content that’s been shared with you.
Initially, Facebook Graph Search will only include people, photos, places and interests. I imagine Facebook Pages will eventually be added to that list, but that doesn't mean a void of relevance for businesses and marketers right now.
Local search and recommendations (likes and check-ins from friends at bars, restaurants, retail stores, etc.) barges into the territory of services like Foursquare and Yelp, bolstering Facebook's approach following the recent introduction of the Nearby tab on its mobile app. And integration with Bing means traditional search results will also be available, keeping users locked onto Facebook for longer, away from big rivals like Google.
If your Facebook Page still isn't set up to appear in Facebook Places, it is now more imperative than ever to do so than ever.
Facebook Graph Search is currently limited to a few hundred thousand people today, although you can register your interest here. There is no current timetable for a full roll out.