Facebook Graph Search hands-on: a brand new social search

facebook hands on lead

We just got a chance to play with Facebook’s new Graph Search with our personal account, and it’s decidedly not a small addition to the site. The entire top menubar has been redesigned, with universal search pinned to the top left, and the friend request, messages, and notification buttons moved over to the far right of the screen. Similarly, you’ll notice subtle tweaks to the icon design and coloring. But most important: the word "Facebook" has been banished from the top left, replaced by a small ‘f’ logo, prompting you to "Search for people, places and things." When you hover your mouse over the box, the logo changes to a magnifying glass, and clicking into the search field offers primary search options: friends, photos, restaurants, games, music, photos, and more.

Graph Search can search among your friends and their activities in a way that Google simply can't

Searches can range from simple to complex, and Facebook does a decent job of coping with natural language entries. And it can handle search among your friends, their activities, and their check-ins in a way that Google simply can't.

"Restaurants nearby" realizes that I’m in New York, and returns results for highly rated nearby restaurants. Facebook provides search refinements in the right rail, so you can dig down and search for cafés, bars, and other types of places. Searching Facebook for "restaurants nearby my friends like" returns a far more specific set of results, and you can go even deeper down the hole by searching for "pictures taken at restaurants nearby my friends like," giving me photos taken at nearby New York restaurants my friends like. Step back a bit, and you can find "pictures taken at restaurants that my friends have posted." Each of these gives you radically different results, and refinements let you dig deeper and deeper with a range of variables.


Just to give you an example of the depth of search now, even without Instagram, Rdio, or Spotify integration, we were able to successfully pull in accurate results for the following searches:

  • Pictures of my friends and me
  • Males and Females nearby that are 30 years old
  • Photos taken in 2011 that I liked
  • My friends who have checked in at places nearby
  • Restaurants in San Francisco that Robert Scoble likes
  • Music that my friends and I like
  • People that have checked in at White Castle and who like Magic: The Gathering
  • My friends that work at The Verge that are younger than 25

The quality of the results varies depending on what you're searching for. Looking for "music that my friends like" tends to return the blandest possible results — remember, Graph Search is returning the results across all of your friends, which includes family, old high school friends, co-workers, etc... But searching for something specific, like "friends at The Verge that are younger than 25" is surprisingly accurate. As far as speed and responsiveness, it's definitely nowhere near as fast as Google or Bing currently. Occasionally it's fast, but several times in our testing it took over five to ten seconds to get Graph Search to return any results.

The other big announcement today was a new development in Facebook's Bing integration. At the bottom of the search options, you'll find a gray globe web icon that lets you search Bing from within the Facebook UI. It's pretty straightforward, and results look like:


As Zuckerberg noted in the event, Instagram data isn’t here now, but it’s "on the list of things we will one day get to." And, of course, Instagram’s full of geotagged data, which will make any geographic searches significantly richer than they are now. We expect that as additional apps from Facebook’s social graph are plugged into the new search tools, search results will get increasingly relevant — imagine searching for music your friends have listened to on Rdio in the past two weeks.

Again, Facebook Graph Search still isn't public, and you'll need to sign up for the wait list here to get early access.

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