Facebook Graph Search: First Impressions

March 14, 2013 by

I just got the notification that made my week: I got access to the Facebook Graph beta. I logged into Facebook and was greeted by the revamped search bar at the top of the page. 

Facebook Graph Search

First Impressions

Of course, I took the tour. Facebook’s tour of Graph Search is pretty quick (it does take about 2 minutes!) It first shows you different ideas of searches you could do, with examples that Facebook knows are relevant to you. For example, for me, it searched “friends who went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill”. Upon performing this search, Facebook showed me the friends in my network who went to my alma mater.

The Really Cool

Graph Search works like a collective memory. Its a great way to search old times, sifting through piles of data to know when and where I might have taken a picture with one of my friends (yes, the potential for embarrassment exists!) I enjoyed doing searches on several of my old haunts and took a trip down memory lane.

A New Way to Search

The tour gave me a couple ideas for some searches of my own. Since I am soon travelling to New Zealand, I decided to search for “Queenstown, New Zealand”. In addition to the Wikipedia page for Queenstown, Facebook also rendered “Photos of my friends in Queenstown, New Zealand”. Graph Search showed that one of my friends had taken a picture at a burger place I was thinking about trying; now I know to ask her about it.

However, I know of my friends is a Kiwi who was born and raised in Auckland. Yet, because she hasn’t tagged herself or her photos with this information, she did not show up when I did a search of “Auckland, New Zealand”. Ultimately, the success of Facebook Graph search will depend on how detail-oriented users are with their profiles, and whether they update their profiles over time. Read more about Optimizing Your Facebook page for Facebook Graph.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

One of the other tough things to deal with is the problem of old data. Some users like myself were introduced to Facebook in college many years ago, so let’s face it: tastes change over time. Most people do not bother to “unlike” something, so that information grows stale over time. This will likely create “noise” in search results. 

A Good Deal for Bing?

While Bing does not power Facebook Graph Search, it does power Facebook’s web search. For example, if a search on Facebook Graph Search does not render any results, Facebook will direct you to a web results on Bing. Thus, if more people start searching on Facebook, searches on Bing might increase as well.


I think the potential is there for Facebook Graph to be incredibly powerful, but it is dependent on your network, and how active your friends are. Enormous amounts of content are added to Facebook daily that is mostly not exposed to existing search products, which gives Facebook a great opportunity. I think there are kinks to work out, but you can start to see the possibilities quite quickly. Will it change how people search?  Ultimately, we’ll have to wait and see.

Have you tried Graph Search?  What are your thoughts?

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