Facebook is not doing search, at least not search Google-style. However, the world’s largest social network has radically re-engineered its native search experience, and the result is not only much, much better, it’s also changed my mind about the company’s long term future.
Graph Search -- and the drivers behind it -- help not merely with 'search' but, more importantly, with user engagement. Battelle again:
If people do not constantly feed Facebook with engagement, its value attenuates over time. As the service slows in overall growth, engagement with its current base becomes critical. New connections are the lifeblood of a service like Facebook. Without a steady stream of meaningful Likes, Friend Requests, declared Interests, and such, the platform would wither.
Put another way, Facebook needed a service that layered a fresh blanket of value over its core topography. Graph Search is it.
I'm skeptical of darn near anything technical that Facebook does. For all the smart engineers they've hired, they seem, honestly, to be able to deliver nothing more than uptime.
Yes, I blame Zuckerberg for that.
Haters can criticize Apple for following the industry at times. Such as with, oh, NOTIFICATIONS! IT'S JUST AN MP3 PLAYER. Typically, however, what Apple does release *clearly* leapfrogs everything out there.
Facebook comes in late and lackluster, even when outright copying.
I also think there's a danger in heeding the excitement of those getting an insider tour of a product, as Battelle did. Typically, these sanctified insiders come away with only the knowledge of the product's amazing potential.
For Graph Search to work, however, I think it will require not merely more "engagement" on our part, as users, but require a different approach entirely to Facebook. This seems unlikely to me. Like most people I know, I use Facebook to foster (already) strong links with (close) friends and families. It's not for business updates or networking, it's not where I post to complain about bad service from, say, Best Buy. And yet, for Graph Search to be of value, I think it needs to deliver that sort of information. Only, will anyone I care about do that?
Hell, I already know the best Indian restaurants in my hometown. And if I travel, I text a friend.
Graph Search strikes me as yet another logical business line/feature that Facebook should be involved in. I'm still not sure, though, if it will generate revenues and profits to justify what the market assumes Facebook will be worth.