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Facebook Graph – Can it really take on Google?

09 Feb

With the amount of data that Facebook has on its users and their activities, I guess it came as no surprise when they recently launched Facebook Graph.

One of the first questions raised was whether Facebook is now looking to take on Google when it comes to search. In essence, Facebook Graph generates a variety of results (e.g. people, places, interests, etc.) all based on the social data available through your network on Facebook.

An obvious first comparison would be with Google+ and it triggered to me think a bit more about what Facebook Graph entails and how it compares to Google+:

  1. Facebook uses the data it’s already got – I thought this post on Fast Company explains Facebook Graph pretty well: “Graph Search leverages Facebook’s social data to pinpoint any combination of people, places, photos and interests. It is designed to field queries such as “photos of my best friend and my mom” or “friends of friends who like my favorite band and live in Palo Alto” or “Indian restaurants in Palo Alto that friends from India like.” In essence, all Facebook Graph does is using the social data it already has. In contrast, the launch of Google+ signified a venture into a fairly new area for Google, with it having to build a new social platform almost from the ground up.
  2. Facebook Graph has its (search) limitations – It was interesting that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said that “We wouldn’t suggest people come and do web searches on Facebook, that’s not the intent” at the launch of Facebook Graph. Indeed, Graph is no Google when it comes to web search; searches on Graph are limited to data that are either public or visible to you. Also, as the aforementioned Fast Company article points out; if one of your friends has wrongly labelled a certain picture it’s just a case of tough luck with Facebook Graph.
  3. Different algorithms – Whereas Google’s search algorithms are predominantly based on keywords and links, Facebook Graph takes into social data around “likes” and “check-ins”. Consequently, the search results that Graph returns are likely to be a lot more personalised and authentic than Google’s. As I mentioned under point 1. above, Facebook has an almost endless amount of social data at its disposal which Google will struggle to compete with. Unlike Google, Facebook Graph enables users to search by using combined phrases such as “My friends who like cycling and have recently been to France.”

Main learning point: the main question I asked myself after having done this brief comparison of Facebook Graph and Google (Plus) was: “is it really fair to compare the two?” Google has clearly established itself as a very reliable web search platform, whilst Facebook Graph is clearly concentrating on “social search”. Having said that, I can see Google+ eventually suffering from Facebook Graph, mostly due to Facebook’s head start when it comes to social data. Facebook Graph, however, is currently only available in beta and it might not hit the dizzying heights that Facebook has hit. Facebook users might not sign up to Zuckerberg’s grand ‘one stop shop’ vision and prefer to search through Google …

Related links for further learning:

http://blog.immediatefuture.co.uk/facebook-graph-search-vs-google-plus-who-will-win-the-battle-for-social-search/

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/01/22/facebooks-social-graph-is-a-google-plus-killer.aspx

http://www.fastcompany.com/3004819/why-facebooks-new-graph-search-no-google

http://www.wired.com/insights/2013/01/what-facebook-search-could-mean-for-google-and-bing/

http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671647/the-design-process-behind-facebook-graph-search

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