Facebook’s “See What We’re Building” Event Recap

  Facebook Wall

For Facebook’s first big announcement at their new campus in Menlo Park,CA, Mark Zuckerberg announced, “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected, we do this by giving people tools so they can map out the stories of their lives. We believe in this concept called the social graph, the sum of all these connections.”

Basically, Facebook offers two kinds of services: making new connections and staying connected. Before the News Feed, the way people used Facebook was to browse around and discover new things in their networks.

There are three pillars of Facebook ecosystem. First is the News Feed, which is what’s going on with people around you. Second is the Timeline, telling you something about this person. The third pillar is the big announcement: Graph Search. Graph Search gives people power and tools to take any cut of the graph that they want. Graph search is designed to show you the answer and not links to answers.

It’s not web search; Facebook is not indexing the web but rather indexing each individuals’ map of the graph. This large and constantly-changing graph is made up of things such as friend connections, locations, likes, comments and tags, which all adds up to indexing all this content and making it so you can retrieve it instantaneously. This search is privacy aware; every piece of content has its own audience, most content is not public and you can only search for content that has been shared with you. “It’s a completely new way for people to find information on Facebook,” said Zuckerberg.

Graph Search can be used in many ways. For example, you can search “My friends who live in Palo Alto who like Game of Thrones” if you want to have a viewing party. The results are ranked by people you care the most about and the rest are sorted by mutual friends and other signals in the Facebook system. There is a “refine this search” bar on the right that lets you narrow things down.

Using the map on the right, you can refine your search by place type, liked by, places in (location) and visited by (my friends), which is similar to Foursquare.

Let’s say you want to find a person you met through a mutual friend or at a party. You can search “People named Chris who are friends of Lars and went to Stanford.” This is a pretty amazing part of the new Graph Search. Want to try dating queries? Search “Friends of friends” or “Friends of friends who are single men in Indiana.” You can narrow down even more by adding “who are from India” in that search.

Graph Search can be a powerful recruiting tool. “Friends of current employees” is a good place to start for recruiting. Search for “People who have been product managers” or “People who have been founders” to get the exact person you’re looking for. You can get some pretty all-star job candidates through this type of search.

Graph Search makes searching through photos much easier on Facebook. Search phrases such as photos of my friends taken in France, photos of my friends taken in national parks, photos of my friends before 1990 or even photos I’ve liked. Want to see photos of a landmark or destination? Search photos of Berlin to see pictures your friends have taken there. It all ties in directly to Facebook’s privacy settings, such as Only Me, Friends and Public.

Search through your friends’ interests. Instead of staring blankly at your Netflix queue, search movies your friends like. If you search for  TV shows your friends’ like, video clips pop up of those TV shows. Narrow your search down to shows liked by groups of people, such as TV Shows liked by software engineers or liked by doctors.

The same goes for music. Find out the music preferences between supporters of Obama and Romney. When a search is done for music liked by people who like Mitt Romney, results include Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Nickelback and Pink Floyd. Search for music liked by people who like Obama and results include Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Michael Jackson, Will Smith, Madonna. Graph search is a great way to explore the world around you.

Do you need something translated from French? Search the languages your friends speak and you can see which of your friends speak French.

Places will be a huge factor for local businesses. Looking for a dentist? Search for dentists liked by my friends and you’ll get a list of dentists, maps, hours and addresses, and a list of which friends like that dentist. Find the most popular restaurants in Indiana to see what’s most popular, and you can even use tools to narrow down places to one type of cuisine. If you’re traveling, find restaurants and bars in different countries that are liked by the locals. You can even click on a country and see which of your friends have been there.

While Graph Search is still in beta testing, there is a limited beta rolling out today at http://www.facebook.com/graphsearch. It will be a slow rollout, incorporating data from how people use is before it is rolled out to the public, but is estimated to launch over the next few weeks and months.