On Monday, September 30, Facebook announced in their Newsroom that it will be allowing some users to try out new Graph Search features that will allow them to search people's posts and status updates.
According to Facebook, "... Now you will be able to search for status updates, photo captions, check-ins and comments to find things shared with you.
"Search for the topics you're interested in and see what your friends are saying, like 'Dancing with the Stars' or 'Posts about Dancing with the Stars by my friends.'"
Josh Constine of TechCrunch pointed out that Graph Search is a search engine based on sentences instead of the more traditional keywords somebody in the greater Spokane area might use to look for something on Google or Twitter. It might take a little experimentation to find relevant search results.
Another issue to consider while using Graph Search is that a user might not see everything that is related to his or her search.
According to Facebook, "As with other things in Graph Search, you can only see content that has been shared with you, including posts shared publicly by people you are not friends with. Use privacy shortcuts and Activity Log to review who can see the things you share.
"This is rolling out slowly to a small group of people who currently have Graph Search and we will continue to improve this experience by listening to feedback."
On Tuesday, October 1, Francis Rey Balolong of SocialBarrel discussed some of the benefits of the new Graph Search features.
According to Balolong, "Graph Search for posts will help Facebook users understand the goals of Timeline, because navigation through contents on profile pages is now faster and easier. It is searchable by any Facebook user with the right privacy permissions.
"... While Graph Search for people allows Facebook users to search for a stranger’s profile and go over his or her public posts, the new Graph Search for posts essentially makes these types of searches way easier."
These new features are not available yet in the greater Spokane area. However, Constine made some persuasive arguments that may motivate people in the Lilac City to change their privacy settings.
According to Constine, " Before Timeline, your old posts were essentially locked away behind hundreds of clicks of the 'more posts' button at the bottom of your profile. This is known as 'privacy by obscurity'. Technically your old content was still accessible, but it was really tough to find, essentially making the past a secret.
"Timeline let you find content on the profiles of friends if you knew what you were looking for and when to look. Graph Search for people let you find a non-friend’s profile and comb through their public posts. But Graph Search for posts essentially eradicates 'privacy by obscurity'. If you said it, and it’s technically visible to someone, they will be able to easily find it. That includes any time you’ve mentioned you're 'drunk, 'high'... or cursed like a sailor."
Constine sees positive benefits to the expanded Graph Search functions as well as this downside. However, he suggests that people who are concerned about what other users might see should take some steps to protect their content.
"... There's a lot of fun, learning, and 'connection' that will come from Graph Search of old posts. But this is a good time to go to your Activity Log and make sure any sensitive content you have has the right privacy settings. I’d definitely recommend doing this when you get the feature yourself. That’s actually one problem with the slow roll out. Some people's content will be searchable by others before they can search it themselves."
Constine went on to suggest that the new Graph Search tools could be good for advertising and help Facebook compete with Twitter. He pointed out that Facebook users will soon have a lot more content to see. While it may be true that they could cause some people to post more on Facebook and spend less time using competing social media sites, the loss of privacy could have the opposite effect on people in the Spokane area who try to limit who can see their updates.