Wednesday 16 January 2013, 15:00
You want to invite friends over for Game of Thrones, but need to find out who among your friends actually likes Games of Thrones. Facebook Graph Search will deliver, says Mark Zuckerberg.
It is not a not a web search and so not a direct challenge to Google. What Facebook’s new search tool does offer, says the Facebook founder, is "some really neat stuff".
For journalists, for instance, Facebook promises access to a "rolodex" of a billion potential sources and their pick of around 240 billion photographs.
And for those times that Graph Search can’t find the answers, it will integrate with Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Bingo!
Quite simply "one of the coolest things" his cool organisation has done in a while, Zuckerberg trumpeted at the beta launch of Graph Search in California on Tuesday.
Well, that’s a matter of opinion, as this sample of first impressions from technology watchers suggests:
BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones was at first “distinctly underwhelmed”.
“My immediate response was that I know my friends' likes and dislikes better than Facebook - and if I wanted to get a recommendation for a restaurant or a film I would ring and ask them.”
However, the BBC man had a rethink after a "much younger colleague" gave his verdict that "It'll do well." And why? "Friends of friends who are single and live in London."
A new aid to online dating, Cellan-Jones conjectures. Maybe Google should be worried after all. But wait…
“Just as Google+ has shown how difficult it is to beat the top dog in social networking at its own game, maybe the firm that has defined search can be relaxed about this rival. Somehow I can't see anyone ever saying ‘I'll just Graph that’ when they're searching for some vital piece of information.”
Technology writer Harry McCracken of Time.com was “guardedly optimistic”.
“I use Facebook for things I want to share, not for things I want to hide, so I’m not worried about the privacy implications. My single biggest beef with the site is that it’s impenetrable: too much of the worthwhile stuff it contains is too hard to uncover. Graph Search could change that. But it won’t change anything until millions of people get their hands on it.”
Privacy was an issue for Stephen Levy, senior writer at Wired: "People will like it… but I think people will also be a little freaked out in some sense and they might want to rethink what they share."
Editor Kyle Wagner at Gizmodo.com went further, raising the spectre of “a crazy, powerful stalking tool”.
“This is going to be a hugely powerful way to be creepy on Facebook. You can already accomplish that pretty easily, but merging the powers of a recruiting service and dating website with your real life friends and acquaintances is going to have some unexpected side effects.”
Elise Ackerman, technology journalist at Forbes, predicted a new hierarchy of ‘likes’. “Google treats search like magic. You never know exactly why Google shows you some results and not others. With Facebook, there’s no mystery. If you ask for information about the hotels your friends liked in Paris that is literally what you’ll get.
“Brace yourself for a future of ‘like’ bribery, ‘like’ gaming and ‘like’ spam. If you are an influential person, expect the perks to start rolling in. Because, as we all know, some ‘likes’ are worth more than others.
Robin Grant, global MD of media agency We Are Social, saw both pitfalls and potential. “Its only real use at the moment is when you want to find out about things about friends of friends, and then use your mutual friend as an introduction - ‘friends of friends who are single and live in London’ or ‘friends of friends who work in marketing at Google’ - which, let's face it, is not that often.
“But, if over time Facebook evolves it beyond the current limits of people, photos, places and interests, and in turn users warm to it, it could succeed.”
And, writing on Cnet.com, reviewer Jennifer Van Grove also felt the new search deserved its “beta” label but that it could easily become a "must have". “The average person won't immediately know how to find exactly what he or she is looking for, nor will a newbie understand the myriad things they can search for or find through Graph Search. There is a steep learning curve here. Some members will enjoy the process; others will lament the labour.
“It will both confuse and delight members in the same way Timeline did. And, like Timeline, Graph Search will become a second-nature experience that members won't want to live without in a few months’ time. Of course, a vocal minority will moan about the bugs and oddities in the meantime.”
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Wednesday 16 January 2013, 10:01
Thursday 17 January 2013, 15:35