Facebook Graph Search Arrives To Challenge Google, Yelp, Foursquare & Others

facebook-graph-search-200After largely ignoring that little white box at the top of its interface for years, Facebook is finally getting serious about search.

The company announced today a new experience that it’s calling Facebook Graph Search.

It relies heavily on “Likes” and other connections to determine what to show as the most relevant search results for each user. It also offers what you might think of as search filters — the ability to search based on the vast user data that Facebook has in its system (or “graph,” as they like to say).

Graph Search and web search are very different. Web search is designed to take a set of keywords (for example: “hip hop”) and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. With Graph Search you combine phrases (for example: “my friends in New York who like Jay-Z”) to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that’s been shared on Facebook. We believe they have very different uses.

For now, Facebook Graph Search will only include people, photos, places and interests — posts and other interests (like song listens) are in the works. Here are some screenshots provided by Facebook.




Search results will be personalized, although Facebook says that more generic queries should produce fairly common results for most people. And Facebook has stressed that search results won’t reveal anything that was previously kept private; you’ll only be able to search for content that’s been shared with you.

Facebook Graph Search will be more valuable to active Facebook users — those who’ve actively Liked businesses and pages, artists and movies, and so forth.

For now, it’s a beta product that’s rolling out slowly and those who want to kick the tires will need to get on a waiting list.

What About Challenging Google & Other Search Engines?

Facebook isn’t launching a traditional search engine like Google or Bing is — this is a social search engine, and possibly the one most likely to succeed due to Facebook’s billion-plus user base and the vast amounts of data that users put into Facebook.

The big question for the long haul is whether or not Facebook Graph Search is good enough that users will change their search activity enough to put a dent in “the Google habit.” Although Facebook is saying that its new search product offers a different use-case than traditional web search, anything that keeps users on Facebook longer and away from Google would be a win in Facebook’s view.

It’s also worth noting that Facebook has, as you’d expect, tapped Bing to provide web-based search results when needed to help fill with content that Facebook can’t find within its own walls.

Local search may be one of the most compelling use cases. As the second screenshot above shows, Facebook can build a very Yelp-like and Foursquare-like local recommendations engine based on the combination of friends, their Facebook check-ins, their “likes” of local businesses and similar data.

We’ll have more later today, including an in-depth look at how Facebook Graph Search works. You can also read Danny Sullivan’s live coverage of Facebook’s announcement over on our sister site, Marketing Land.

UPDATE: This article has been expanded since its original publication with screenshots from Facebook and additional information from the live event that wasn’t included in Facebook’s online news release.

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Facebook: Facebook Search | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://www.kishoresoft.com Sai Bharadwaj

    Matt, will this change how we look at optimizing brands for search engines? Looks more of a connected network search?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1671505155 March Dartnail

    hi danny,

    i had a blog post about this nov 2010 http://aggravationconnoisseur.blogspot.ca/2010/11/facebookmyspace-as-floor-and-google-for.html

    to clarify, what i meant from google as floor or ceiling is/was google in the traditional sense, which at least at the time i blogged that, was as a search company, then it links to Dave Heinemeierhansson breakdown of it’s then valuation

  • Matt McGee

    It’s very much “network” — ie, Facebook — search. It’s not a traditional search engine. It’s similar to what Google has been trying to do for years with personalized search and, more recently, Search Plus Your World — search results based on connections.

  • daveintheuk

    All of the queries need to be changed slightly…. “Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India who use Facebook regularly and like each restaurant based on merit rather than because they just wanted to look at the page”. Or something like that.

  • davidquaid

    Facebook had to improve its internal search – frankly, Alexa was a better search engine in 1999. As you point out – most results will be fairly common.

    The big thing people miss is that Google = Serendipity – and being connected to things you’re already connected to isn’t going to help to find new things.

    I can’t see this challenging Google – I dont even believe they’re in the same space

  • http://www.sagerock.com/blog Sage Lewis

    I think davidquaid is right. I’m having a little trouble envisioning this. Will I use this when I’m in a new city looking for a restaurant? I might try it a few times. But if the results aren’t great I’ll probably just go back to Google.

    I kind of wonder if they are hoping I’ll buy things just because my friends bought them. That is going to be a pretty small set of data. I think I would still check a place like Amazon or Google Local or Yelp before I made my decision. But we’ll see.

  • http://twitter.com/MrNunchi Smruti Ranjan

    Can it beat Google? I don’t think so. As per Mark’s words, he want to retain users in Facebook, as it’s a personalized network search. Google’s view is broader more than the Graph search. you would also like to see http://rightcolumnmedia.com/2013/01/16/facebook-launches-graph-search-no-facebook-phone

  • http://twitter.com/krystianszastok Krystian Szastok

    interesting how Samuel W. Lessin is a product at Facebook. Must be a staging account.

  • http://www.facebook.com/annmarie.landry Ann Marie Landry

    If this does take off, it will grow the need even more for small businesses to not only have a Facebook Page, but to truly cultivate a community, as to connect with “friends of friends” in these searches.

  • ankya7

    Well there is no way search can be beneficial to fb users who already are irritated by too many unwanted changes.
    This will only be useful to only some of the power users . Not happy with this change.

  • Rank Watch

    Even i too have the same thought. I would sincerely go against the title of this post. By no means Facebook Graph is going to challenge Google. Google has all web crawling to it, whether you want anything, but Graph search will be more specific and search links would be through the networks and pages. You cannot get a “How-to” in a similar way on Graph search as you get that on Google page.

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