Graph search aids Facebook users digdeep into ‘likes’
Facebook is an excellent tool for certain kinds of social interaction. With a couple of clicks, you can share a cute photo of your newborn baby. You can pop over to the page of a college buddy and find out where he lives now, whether he is a fan of “Mad Men.”
Facebook is an excellent tool for certain kinds of social interaction. With a couple of clicks, you can share a cute photo of your newborn baby. You can pop over to the page of a college buddy and find out where he lives now, whether he is a fan of "Mad Men."
But just try finding that photo of Mom and Dad in front of the Eiffel Tower during their 2008 trip to Paris, or the name of that lovely bistro nearby that they mentioned in a status update. Odds are, you would have to plow through a lot of old posts and photos to dig out that information, if you could find it at all.
Now, Facebook is trying to make it easier to find that lost photo or restaurant recommendation and unearth other information buried within your social network with a tool it calls Graph Search.
On Monday, the company will roll out the feature to its several hundred million users in the United States and to others who use the American English version of the site. Other languages will follow.
Developing a sophisticated search feature is vital to Facebook's long-term success, both to deepen users' engagement and to make it more appealing to advertisers.
Experts say Facebook's technical achievement so far is impressive. Privacy could still be an issue, however, as more user data becomes easily accessible.
Also, the feature is dependent on Facebook users volunteering more information about their likes and dislikes.
Ever since Facebook released an early version of the tool in January, the development team has been observing and listening to millions of testers and making improvements. "We launched it early, when it still was in a pretty raw state," Lars Rasmussen, the engineering director of the project, said.
Early on, Rasmussen said, users had trouble even finding the search box, which was blue and melded into the border at the top of every Facebook page.
The tool also has struggled to understand how people actually use language.
For example, typing in "surfers who live in Santa Cruz" confounded the search engine, which was tuned to recognize the phrase "people who like to surf" but not synonyms like surfers or "people who like surfing," said Loren Cheng, who leads the team of linguists who are working to refine the tool's natural language capabilities.
As Graph Search becomes widely available, Facebook users might be surprised at what information about themselves shows up in searches that others do, especially if old items were posted with looser privacy restrictions.
New York Times