Facebook’s new Graph Search product is set to leverage member data to provide advertisers with more targeted, personalised advertising opportunities.
Graph Search, unveiled by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg at the company’s headquarters, is a search engine that will help users “explore Facebook in a whole new way”.
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It gathers data from Facebook profiles, pages and information, and presents the results to the user.
“You can look up anything shared with you on Facebook and others can find stuff you’ve shared with them, including content set to Public. That means different people see different results,” the company says on its website.
Graph Search is divided into three categories: people, photos and places.
Users can find people based on things they’ve shared, including their interests and profile information; find photos they and their friends have posted or been tagged in; and discover things like restaurants and music through their friends and connections.
Facebook says Graph Search will start with a limited beta program for US audiences. It’s unknown when it will be made available outside the US.
The product is being touted as one that could challenge Google’s dominance of the web search space, although Zuckerberg has insisted Graph Search is not a web search tool.
“Web search is designed to take any open-ended query and give you links that might have answers,” he said in his presentation.
“Graph Search is designed to take a precise query and give you an answer, rather than links that might provide the answer.”
Eden Zoller, principal analyst at Ovum, says before the arrival of Facebook’s Graph Search, the search function on Facebook was basic.
“As such, [it was] a wasted opportunity given Facebook’s imperative to strengthen advertising revenues,” Zoller says.
“Facebook Graph Search will no doubt leverage member data to provide advertisers with more targeted, personalised advertising opportunities going forward.”
But Zoller says Facebook must tread very carefully and be mindful of user privacy.
“It claims to have built Graph Search with privacy in mind,” he says.
“But Facebook has a mixed track record on this front and is in the habit of pushing privacy to the limits of what is acceptable.
“Facebook Graph Search is not a web search engine, but a search tool designed to enrich the Facebook platform and experience for both users and advertisers.
“This is sensible, as a full-blown web search engine from Facebook would inevitably have to compete with Google search, and given Google’s dominance of the search market it would be hard for Facebook to make a serious impact – and win advertising dollars.”