Graph Search set to change how we use Facebook

Sat, Jan 19, 2013, 00:00

Q Is Facebook sharing too much of our information?

It may not be the catchiest of names, but Graph Search is set to change how we use Facebook.

In the good old days, things you put on Facebook were gradually pushed down your profile page until they disappeared where no one would ever look for them. All those embarrassing comments were that bit more difficult to find, gradually pushed into Facebook obscurity.

Then came Timeline, and with it the ability to easily comb your way through someone’s profile back to the day they joined, month by month. That change had people in a flap, trying to limit who could see their past posts, amid much complaining about being reminded just how terrible they were at Facebook a couple of years ago.

Earlier this week, and amid much secrecy, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg unleashed the latest Facebook feature: Graph Search.

Indexing

The tool indexes everything on Facebook and allows you to search everything that has been shared with you, either by friends or made publicly available to the social network as a whole.

The intent is to make it easier to make new connections and find new content. Graph Search focuses on four areas: people, places, photos and interests.

You can search for people who like a certain activity or hobby, who are part of a particular group on Facebook, or who have visited certain places. Want to know which of your friends have been to New York and like heavy metal? No problem.

Business benefits

It could also have benefits for businesses using Facebook, as a user’s friends, interests and other connections impact how the results are ordered. So it might make business pages on Facebook more visible to a wider audience.

But as with anything Facebook does, it comes with the usual privacy concerns. Although Facebook says the search tool can only show you items that have been shared with you, there is another drawback. Using Graph Search, you can uncover things that have been long since lost in the social network’s white noise. It also means people can inadvertently unearth all the embarrassing social networking faux pas you made long before you knew better. And so far, there’s no way to opt out of having your profile excluded completely from search results as long as you want to share content with friends.

Graph Search is still in beta mode, which means a limited number of people using Facebook in the US have access; you can add yourself to a waiting list if you want to use it as soon as possible. If it all goes to plan, a network-wide roll-out cannot be too far off.

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