Facebook’s much hyped new search product Graph Search is finally ready to go live and will start appearing on user accounts today.
The feature, which uses Facebook’s social graph rather than an index of the web to power its search operations, is designed to provide you with the answers to your questions rather than links to the answers.
The reason Graph Search has taken so long to come to play, the social networking giant says, is because the testing has been so extensive.
“We launched it early, when it still was in a pretty raw state,” Lars Rasmussen, the engineering director of the project, acknowledged in a recent interview.
Early on, people apparently had trouble using and even finding some of the features. The search box, for instance, was originally blue and melded with the top of the page but the team eventually had to change the colour of the box to white and used words to explicitly explain its purpose.
Graph Search also apparently had some early issues with figuring out how people actually use language. According to The New York Times, the phrase “surfers who live in Santa Cruz” completely baffled Graph Search, which was tuned to recognise the phrase “people who like to surf” but not synonyms like “people who like surfing”.
It no longer just takes notice of people’s expressed interest either. After all, people can go years without updating their interests but could “like” a page that reflects their interests. It therefore makes sense that Graph Search now takes related pages into account when assessing whether or not someone likes something.
There are however still limitations. Graph Search can’t gather data from status updates or third-party apps (even Instagram), and it doesn’t work on Facebook’s mobile apps. It’ll be interesting therefore to see if Facebook’s so-called “third pillar” manages to maintain interest while it transitions from an incomplete to fully fledged product.