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Have a query, Facebook it!

Have a query, Facebook it!
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If you have heard the latest piece of news from Facebook, then you know what I mean. At a time when critics started hinting at a slowdown of Faceboom (beg your pardon, I meant Facebook boom), Mark Zuckerberg has come up with his much anticipated announcement of the Graph search, which seems to have taken the social web in a frenzy. Received with a lukewarm response, this was a disappointment for Facebook fans, who almost anticipated a more elaborate application, or perhaps a Facebook phone. In the midst of mixed reactions on the feasibility of this new ‘search’ tool competing the market giant – Google, it has none-the-less been successful in at least drawing attention of the crowd that will eventually decide its success. The news comes at a time when, despite claims of reaching the 1 billion milestones, there are reports of dwindling footfall in its UK market by 600,000 users.

On the 15th of January, Zuckerberg made the announcement of Graphic search, a Facebook application integrated within the social networking site, which is expected to redefine popular search engine performance. The most outstanding difference, Mark explains, is that popular search engines run a given query and accordingly generate links to web pages which most likely have the answer. In case of Graphic search, it will not be the links, but users will get the actual answer to the question. The algorithm behind notwithstanding, the result will be completely based on the mountain of data fed by the billion users of Facebook. This also indicates that every individual will have different outcome to identical search keywords. The reason is every user has different privacy settings, different relationships with their ‘friends’, and their ‘likes’ and ‘tags’ are never the same. Therefore, my friend and I, who have the same set of friends, will have different search results even with the same keywords. So this is a going to be a very personalized search.

The first iteration of Graphic search is slated to focus on few basic searches like friends, places, photos and points of interest. The point behind this introduction is strategic – the site basically has a stagnant graph in terms of functions and activities performed by users within the site. With the same set of friends, over time, this was bound to draw users away to engage themselves into other things outside the site (remember Orkut?) Therefore, the urgent need for something like this was apparent. The company also stresses on the fact that this is just the ‘beta version’, a nascent stage which is mostly aimed at increasing customer experience. But a clear indication that this could emerge as a separate business module and could well stand on its own, should the users find it useful. What’s interesting to note is the collaboration with Microsoft’s Bing (Graph search is supposed to prompt a blank Bing search page, if the keywords fail to generate answers!) When asked about Facebook’s chances of working with Google (and inviting comments from the audience!), Zuckerberg quipped that he actually wanted to work with the search engine major.

How successful Facebook emerges with the launch of Graph search remains to be seen, and we will know in the near future. However, chances of it replacing Google and his lesser partners are slim. Simply because, Facebook intends to prioritize the privacy choices of users, and will only use data that it has permission to share. More so, because it has just started with basic searches, and in the event it fails to return the answer to a query, it will lead you to another search engine. While, from an optimist’s view this may slightly aid in the latter’s business, it does not sound threatening enough to breach into Google’s territory. At least, not for now.

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