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Google with Friends? Facebook’s Graph Search and What it Means to You
By Ted Hope
As I was finishing my recent post on Facebook’s Graph Search, Tom Scott’s Tumblr blog on Facebook’s new Graph Search feature, “Actual Facebook Graph Searches,” went viral. Scott searched things like others of Jews who like Bacon, married people who like Prostitutes, and current employers of people who like Racism, and more disturbingly, family members of people who live in China and like Falun Gong, and Islamic men interested in men who live in Tehran, Iran. It’s likely that some of these “likes” were intended to be ironic. I’m doubtful that that people would say they liked Prostitutes, even if they did, andGizmodo found people with dubious likes for “Shitting my pants,” as well as some creepy things that might not be ironic. But as has been noted a lot, it would be hard for people in China to say they were joking about liking the Falun Gong.
I advise all of you to go to “3 Privacy Changes You Must Change Before Using Facebook Graph Search” (Gizmodo) and Facebook Graph Search: Now Is The Time to Go Over Your Privacy Settings (ABC News). I also think it would be worth studying The Facebook Privacy information page.
Last Tuesday, Facebook introduced a new feature called Graph Search at a highly hyped press conference. Wall Street, which had been expecting a phone ,was not impressed, and the stock dived by 6.5% (it’s since recovered). On the other hand, the social media bloggers almost unanimously called Graph Search a triumph and Mashable declared: “Facebook Graph Search Could Be Its Greatest Innovation.”
What is it? Graph Search gives you the power to tap into the web of connections between you and your friends in a way that has never existed before. For example, if you type in a question like “Which of my friends like Moonrise Kingdom?” you will be shown a list of your friends, weighted by the ones you interact with the most, i.e., best friends on top. You could also ask, “What films do my friends like?” and presumably–I haven’t seen it yet–the films at the top of the list will be the ones most liked by your friends. You can also add other variables to your search like “Which of my female Los Angeles friends who speak French like Moonrise Kingdom?” As Graph Search indexes photos as well as likes, you can ask to see pictures from the photo libraries of all your friends who have liked something or other on Facebook. You can see more examples of what Graph Search can do on a very Apple-ish video, and sign up for their Beta here.
Consider for a moment how Graph Search could supplement or compete with the services that other websites provide. Yelp tells you what friends have to say about restaurants and other businesses; Graph Search tells you which ones are liked by your friends and their friends. LinkedIn is a powerful hiring tool for searching through people’s resumes; Graph Search lets you make targeted social inquiries, such as finding which friends of your friends are film publicists. Match.com, as USA Today pointed out, allows you to see profiles of strangers who have signed up for the service; Graph Search shows which of your Facebook acquaintances and their friends are single. (Female Facebook users… prepare to be pestered!)
At this point Graph Search only indexes what’s in your profile and the pages you’ve liked, so its usefulness is limited by how much our Facebook profile tell about us. However, Mark Zuckerberg says that his ultimate goal is for Graph Search to include all the content posted on Facebook. Imagine if you could instantly call up comments that a trusted friend made about a movie three months ago? That would indeed be very useful, but it will be many years before Graph Search can do that. In the meantime, if there’s anything that Graph Search can’t help you with, your search goes to Bing.
If people having all this instant access to your data disturbs you, remember that there is nothing accessible through Graph Search that you haven’t already made public, and it only works within your circle of friends. This is an excellent time to revisit your privacy settings, perhaps take down some pictures and remove tags. Here’s Facebook’s information page and a video about how to control your privacy with Graph Search.
As far as your film’s fan page goes, Graph Search will force you to change your strategies. In the past, your page was the nucleus of a network, branching out to your fans and their friends, and to the tributaries of Facebook users that stem out beyond them. Graph Search serves people on the outer margins looking in. Previously the likes, comments and shares drove your message into the network, and the number of likes was secondary, but if Graph Search catches on, the number of fans will be very important to a search for “What movies do my friends like?” However, the quality of the content will be as important as it was before, because it will move your film up to the top of the list.
Will Graph Search become one of those big ideas that changes the way we use the Internet?
Reid Rosefelt coaches filmmakers in how to market their films using Facebook, and lectures frequently on the topic. His credits as a film publicist include “Stranger Than Paradise,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and “Precious.”