Facebook’s Graph Search will not replace Google

It seems every Facebook announcement is surrounded by substantial buzz, and the latest is no different. On Tuesday, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Graph Search: A new feature that will allow users to search for specific items within their social circle or, in Facebook-
speak, “graph.”

While many headlines following the big news have prophesized the demise of websites like Google, Yelp and LinkedIn at the hands of Graph Search, Facebook will have to drastically change the habits of its users if search engine domination is its ultimate goal.

Unlike a traditional web search where results come back as links based on the popularity of a page related to the search topic among the general public of Internet users, Graph Search produces results from your Facebook friends, if they choose to share the information (or neglect to check their privacy settings regularly), and friends of friends.

The idea behind it is that by searching people within one’s own broad social group, the results will be more relevant and helpful.

For example, instead of reading countless Yelp reviews written by strangers, a hungry user could type “restaurants in Ypsilanti my friends like” into Graph Search and choose a new restaurant to try. The results can be specific, and a search like, “clothing store liked by my friends in Michigan who like ‘Project Runway’” has the potential to be a very helpful tool indeed.

But if you search for “Korean restaurant in Ypsilanti liked by friends from Korea” and nothing turns up, you’ll see results from the search engine Bing instead.

I expect to see a lot of results from Bing while using Graph Search, because the system revolves around what pages people “like.”

Some of my Facebook friends seem to click the like button on everything from their favorite brand of paper towels to God (yes, even God has a Facebook page), but many more don’t like any pages at all.

I certainly don’t curate the list of pages I’ve liked on Facebook. Though I know with the release of Graph Search, it could potentially help my friends if I like the page of my favorite bar in Ypsilanti and my beloved dentist back in New York, but I don’t see myself spending more time on Facebook doing that.

Even the social element Facebook has mastered over the last nine years could fall flat. With the ability to search for a friend in close proximity who likes the band you have a spare ticket to see, or allowing a user to search for a single friend of a friend who likes sunsets and long walks on the beach, the feature could be used as a less sketchy version of Craigslist or a dating site. But, again, this all depends on whether or not people like the relevant terms you’re using.

That Graph Search is based on what users like and renders the entire feature almost useless as a search tool with the capacity to replace a traditional search engine like Google. In the end, Google just has more data to sift through and it doesn’t matter if my Facebook friends vouch for the results.

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