Billed as “a new way to find people, photos, places and interests on Facebook,” Graph Search lets users perform searches on the social network that combine phrases — “my friends in New York who like basketball,” for example — to get at specific cross-sections of the more than a billion people, 240 billion photos and one trillion connections stored on the social network.
As a result of its beta test period over the last several months, Graph Search is now faster and easier to use than it was initially, and it understands more types of queries. It also does a better job of displaying the most relevant results first, Facebook said.
Graph Search will roll out over the next few weeks, updating users’ search boxes when it does. A mobile version is in the works.
Of course, privacy issues are never far behind new Facebook releases, and Graph Search is no exception. Concerns emerged soon after the beta debut of Graph Search, and Facebook on Monday made a point of trying to allay those fears.
“As Graph Search rolls out more widely, everyone on Facebook will see a notice on their home page with a reminder about how to control what they share and with whom,” Facebook spokesperson Victoria Cassady told us. “This follows a similar notice in December that highlighted new privacy tools to help people manage what they share on Facebook.”
Graph Search results are also personalized for each user based on what has been shared with them, so not everyone sees the same thing.
“For example, if you search for ‘Photos of San Francisco,’ you’ll see photos your friends took there and shared with you, as well as public photos,” the company explained. “This means if someone else does the same search, they’re going to see different results because they have different friends and different photos have been shared with them.”
Nevertheless, privacy concerns remain, particularly when it comes to protecting children, many of whom may lie about their age in order to use the site.
“Facebook requires everyone to be at least 13 years old before they can create an account,” Cassady stressed. “Creating an account with false info is a violation of our terms. This includes accounts registered on the behalf of someone under 13.”
‘People Will Have to Learn’
The fact is, “as Graph Search usage grows, people will have to learn to adapt their behavior to accommodate the new capabilities,” Greg Sterling, a senior analyst with Opus Research, told us.
For instance, “parents of younger kids will need to be more vigilant about and more closely monitor their kids’ use of Facebook,” he suggested.
At the same time, “there’s a paradox there, because parents who have aided underage kids getting on are ‘negligent’ in a sense,” Sterling pointed out. “However many 13-year-olds and older teens are quite savvy about privacy on social networks — more so than adults sometimes.”
In any case, “there will undoubtedly be some surprises and controversies as people learn about and experiment with Graph Search,” Sterling concluded, “but those will probably be addressed or resolved relatively quickly.”