Looking over the web, there seems to have been a very mixed reaction to yesterdays announcement of facebooks graph search, on one hand people are asking “Why do we need this”, whilst others are saying it is long overdue.
Personally I have a love-hate relationship with facebook. It winds me up something chronic with the endless game requests and pointless suggested pages. (No I don’t want to like your bands page, I can’t stand your breed of psuedo indie crap). However I simply cannot break away from the endless chain of updates given by my friends.
My own reaction is very much in the latter of the two camps. I can clearly see a huge potential within this facility to be able to find useful information about the people who surround me and how I am connected to the world at large.
Every time I release a blog post, I look on google analytics and see people browsing from all over the globe. In some cases I recognise who might be in those locations and other times I am left wondering “Who do I know in that town”? In these instances, the first place I turn to is facebook, but with an ever growing friends list it becomes harder to track how I may be connected to someone in, for example, Wyoming. The search in its present state doesn’t offer this capability but it seems Graph search just might.
Without having tested the functionality as yet, from the reports I have read, the ability to use search terms along the lines of “How am I connected to people in Wyoming” could prove very powerful although I am possibly less enamoured by the thought of being able to search for “Photos of friends of friends who are single”. If I wanted a dating site I would use a dating site (Subject to change).
Of course it is much more than this. Facebook is giving us the power to search against the habits of our friends and people they are connected to to be able to find the best places to go (or inversely places to avoid), you would be able to use it to find the best person to carry out a particular job using terms such as “who would my friends recommend for plastering a wall in Huddersfield”, giving you a much quicker response than waiting for a single person to reply and meaning you have a much more informed decision than searching Yell and finding you’ve picked a cowboy from Hicksville who has never even heard of a float, let alone knows how to use one.
The recommendations facility will be a great boon for recruiters and companies alike and this seems to be a direct competition with linked-in but with a difference. Linked-in is very much professional-centric. Very few people use it for anything other than work-related purposes (mine is almost exclusively filled with recruiters and people I work with or have worked with in the past), whilst facebook is very social-centric. It is easier to understand a person by analysing their social circles than their professional ones. Being able to rate people by what their direct social peers say about them could prove to be highly lucrative in placing the right people in the right roles.
Although it is very much in its infancy, I think it will be very interesting to watch how this technology takes off over the coming months and years and with its release some of facebooks slightly bemusing and in many cases somewhat outrageous privacy changes now start to make a kind of sense. A technology such as this could not exist without sharing and whilst it will probably never have the power of Google, from what I understand it is never designed to compete, the two are inherintly different in the results they are designed to provide.