Facebook's graph search and the data card


"It's the kind of product we love to build at Facebook: A big technology problem and big social problem."

So said Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday when Facebook announced Graph Search.

You may be asking if this is a big deal. The answer is an unequivocal yes. With Graph Search, Facebook users will be able to do exactly the types of searches on the social network that they cannot do with other search engines. Yes, including Google. With social search, Facebook users be theoretically able to answer questions like:

  • Which one of my friends went to a Rush concert in the last six months?
  • Have any of my family members checked in to a Chinese restaurant in Manhattan in the last year? Which one(s) were any good?
  • Which movies have my friends recently enjoyed?

Now, it's important to note that the answers to these questions hinge upon Facebook users continuing to voluntarily provide this type of information. In the examples above, you'd have to check in (via FourSquare or some other service) to restaurants and rock shows. If I rented a good movie last night but didn't "tell" Facebook, any search results would from my friends would be less than accurate.

The Limitations of Google

Why can Facebook do something that Google can't? Is it that the top brass at Google doesn't recognize the importance of social search? Nope, as Google Plus clearly demonstrates. (It's a big point that I made in The Age of the Platform.) Is the problem that Google engineers aren't smart enough? Again, the answer is no. Google techies are about as smart as they come.

So what, then?

It's all about the data. Specifically, Facebook has data on one billion - give or take - users that Google simply does not. Lots of data. And let's not forget that Facebook's data lies behind a walled garden that Google's web-crawling software simply can't access. That is no coincidence.

Simon Says

I don't expect Facebook's stock to double by the time this post publishes. What's more, I have major doubts about the privacy ramifications of all this. Still, I'll give Zuck credit: he's got the data card, and he's playing it. Big time.

Is your company doing this same?


What say you?


About Author

Phil Simon

Author, Speaker, and Professor

Phil Simon is a keynote speaker and recognized technology expert. He is the award-winning author of eight management books, most recently Analytics: The Agile Way. His ninth will be Slack For Dummies (April, 2020, Wiley) He consults organizations on matters related to strategy, data, analytics, and technology. His contributions have appeared in The Harvard Business Review, CNN, Wired, The New York Times, and many other sites. He teaches information systems and analytics at Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business.

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