Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Facebook’s challenge to Google: A more social Graph Search Jan 16, 2013

Facebook’s challenge to Google: A more social Graph Search

Facebook’s challenge to Google: A more social Graph Search
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, second from right, speaks with Director of Engineering Lars Rasmussen at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California. AP
    Menlo Park California: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a new search feature, the Graph Search that’s designed to entice people to spend more time on his company’s website and will put the world’s largest online social network more squarely in competition with Google and other rivals such as Yelp and LinkedIn.
    Called “graph search,” the new service unveiled Tuesday lets users quickly sift through their social connections for information about people, interests, photos and places. It’ll help users who, for instance, want to scroll through all the photos their friends have taken in Paris or search for the favorite TV shows of all their friends who happen to be doctors.
    Although Zuckerberg stressed that “graph search” is different from an all-purpose search engine, the expanded feature escalates an already fierce duel between Google Inc and Facebook Inc as they grapple for the attention of Web surfers and revenue from online advertisers.
    “This could be another reason not to use Google and another reason to stay on Facebook for longer periods,” said Gartner analyst Brian Blau. “I don’t think Google is going to lose its search business, but it could have an impact on Google by changing the nature of search in the future.”
    Facebook’s foray into search marks one of its boldest steps since its initial public offering of stock flopped eight months ago amid concerns about the company’s ability to produce the same kind of robust earnings growth that Google delivered after it went public in 2004.
    Although Facebook’s stock has rallied in recent weeks, the shares remain below their IPO price of $38. Investors seemed let down by Tuesday’s news, causing Facebook’s stock to slip 85 cents, or 2.7 percent, to close at $30.10. Google’s stock gained $1.68 to close at $724.93.
    If the new search tool works the way Facebook envisions, users should be able to find information they want to see on their own instead of relying on the social network’s formulas to pick which posts and pictures to display in their fees, analysts said.
    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a new search feature, the Graph Search. AP
    Until now, Facebook users were unable to search for friends who live in a certain town or like a particular movie. With the new feature, people can search for friends who, say, live in Boston who also like “Zero Dark Thirty.” And Facebook’s users will be able to enter search terms the same way that they talk, relying on natural language instead of a few stilted keywords to telegraph their meaning.
    Only a fraction of Facebook’s more than 1 billion users will have access to the new search tool beginning Tuesday because the company plans to gradually roll it out during the next year to allow time for more fine tuning.
    Not all the interests that people share on Facebook will be immediately indexed in the search engine either, although the plan is to eventually unlock all the information in the network while honoring each user’s privacy settings.
    That means users can only see content that’s available to them through other’s privacy settings, Zuckerberg pledged.
    “Every piece of content has its own audience,” Zuckerberg said.
    Though the company has focused on refining its mobile product for much of last year, the search feature will only be available on Facebook’s website for now, and only in English.
    Facebook’s decision to make its foray into search slowly reflects the formidable challenge that it’s trying to tackle. The “social graph,” as Facebook calls the trove of connections between people and things, is “big and changing,” Zuckerberg said. There are 240 billion photos on Facebook and 1 trillion connections.
    Indexing all this, he added, is a difficult technical problem the company has been working on.
    Although Facebook isn’t trying to fetch information across the Web like Google does, it’s clearly trying to divert traffic and ad spending from its rival. Facebook is hoping to do this by making it easier for its users to quickly find many of the things that are most important to them: movie, music and restaurant recommendations from friends and family; photo galleries of people they care about; and new connections to old friends and other people with common interests.
    It’s the kind of personal data that has been difficult for Google to collect, partly because Facebook has walled off its social network from its rival’s search engine. Instead, Facebook has partnered with Microsoft Corp. to use its Bing search engine to power traditional Web searches done through its site. That partnership remains.
    “For a certain set of searches, this is going to be far more powerful than Google,” predicted Ovum analyst Jan Dawson.
    Yelp Inc.’s online business review service also could be hurt if Facebook’s search feature makes it easier for people to find recommendations from the people that they trust instead of relying on the opinions of strangers posting on Yelp. Facebook’s search tool also will allow people to find people who worked at a specific company — one of the advantages of LinkedIn Corp.’s online service for professional networking.
    Yelp’s stock fell $1.36, or 6.2 percent, to close Tuesday at $20.61 while LinkedIn’s stock added 39 cents to finish at $117.91.
    Facebook doesn’t have plans to show additional ads as people use the new search tool, but analysts said that is bound to change. “If the appropriate privacy protections are in place, this could be a significant boost in value that Facebook can provide to its users and, in time, that will provide some really valuable new advertising avenues for advertisers,” Dawson said.
    Google is trying to overcome its social network disadvantage with Google Plus, a service that the company launched 19 months ago in attempt to glean more insights into people’s relationships and counter the threat posed by Facebook.
    Helped by Google’s aggressive promotion of the service, Plus boasts more than 135 million people who post information and photos on their profiles. But Google Plus users still aren’t sharing as much or hanging out on its service as long as Facebook users do, raising questions about whether Google will ever be able to grasp the Internet’s social sphere as firmly as Facebook does.
    Facebook now must prove it can master the intricacies of search and picking the right ads to show to the right people at the right time — complicated tasks that Google has honed during the past 14 years to establish itself as the Internet’s most powerful company. It currently produces 10 times more annual revenue than Facebook. Though neither company has released its 2012 financial results, analysts are projecting $52 billion in 2012 revenue for Google versus about $5 billion for Facebook.
    The search tool is laying the foundation for Facebook to close the gap, said Chris Winfield, co-founder and chief marketing officer for online ad agency BlueGlass Interactive.
    “They can just chip away incrementally,” Winfield said. “The can start by just taking away one in every 100 Google searches, then one in every 20, then one in every 10.”
    In an opinion apparently shared by many investors, Forrester Research analyst Nate Elliott doubts the search feature will prove to be a boon to Facebook. He views it as little more of a way for Facebook users to find new friends online more quickly and make new connections that ensure the social network remains relevant.
    “It’s vitally important” Elliott said. “If Facebook thinks people are going to start searching Facebook when they would have searched Google, then they I think they are going to wake up in a year and find they are sorely mistaken.”

    Facebook’s Graph Search: What you need to know

    Facebook’s Graph Search: What you need to know

    Facebook introduced a new version of search on the site called Graph Search late yesterday night India time. According to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook now has three pillars, namely Newsfeed, Timeline and now Graph Search. Graph Search is still in beta mode and when it does go live it will be available on desktop first. Mobile version of Graph Search will still take some time.
    So what is that you as active Facebook users need to know about Graph Search? Here’s a quick look at exactly how it works.
    • How it looks:  Graph Search will appear as a bigger search bar at the top of each page once it goes live. When you search for something on Facebook, that search not only determines the set of results you get, but also serves as a title for the page. Facebook is giving users the option to edit the title of the page as well and thus create their own custom view of the content that you search/share.
    • This is not web search: Zuckerberg pointed this out at the very beginning of his presentation. It’s not going to give your best possible results and links like a regular web search. Instead Graph search will look at phrases that you type and give you results based on what your friends have shared.
    • What it will let you search for now: Currently search will focus on Photos, People, Places and Interests. So if you want to search for say people who live in your city with the same interests like a Tv show, Graph search will show you the relevant results. Every time you check into a restaurant or mall, Facebook’s Graph Search could show it to your friends if they too search for the same place.
    Mark Zuckerberg introducting the Graph Search. AP
    • What about privacy Again Zuckerberg was keen to emphasise this during the press event and it seems Graph Search will not shred your privacy settings. Only results that you have shared with friends, friends of friends, or the public, will be found by other people. Photos, updates and links that keep at a custom setting of “Me only” won’t be displayed in Graph Search.
    Remember though that if you have a group photo with several friends tagged in it, their friends will be able to search for the picture via Graph Search. Facebook will be giving users the option to review the Activity log before they make Graph Search live across the site.
    So yes, it’s time to go to your timeline and hide any pictures that you don’t want to public or share with all with all your Facebook friends.
    Facebook Graph Search is still in beta and is only available for users with US English as their default language. To join the waitlist click here.
    ‘Refine This Search’ box which is on the side of the Graph Search. It will let you change the pieces of your search equation as and when you want.
    Friends of friends feature is all about dating queries. The so-called new-connections that Zuckerberg was talking about. This will let you search for friends of your friends with certain filters.
    Photos of my friends The results are according to ‘the best photos’. This is decided by comments, likes etc.
    Zuckerberg said at the conference, “We are indexing our map of the graph, which is really big and constantly changing. Almost a million new people every day. 240 billion photos. 1 billion people. 1 trillion connections.” So yes Facebook has a lot of data and it’s going to try and let you search around it.

    Facebook rolls out friends-based search product

    Facebook rolls out friends-based search product

    Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg introduces a new feature called 'Graph Search' during a media event at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, California January 15, 2013. REUTERS-Robert GalbraithFacebook Inc took the wraps off a new search tool on Tuesday that lets people trawl their network of friends to find everything from restaurants to movie recommendations, an improvement that's likely to increase competition with review websites like Yelp and potentially even Google Inc.
    The so-called graph search marks the company's biggest foray into online search to date, though it displays only information within the walls of the social network rather than links to sites available across the Internet.

    Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's 28-year-old founder and chief executive, introduced the new product at the company's first major product launch since a rocky initial public offering in May.

    "Graph search is designed to take a precise query and return to you the answer, not links to other places where you might get the answer," Zuckerberg told reporters at its Menlo Park, California, headquarters. "What you've seen today is a really different product from anything else that's out there."

    Facebook shares, which have climbed 15 percent since the start of the year, slid 3 percent Tuesday to just above $30. The product news fell short of some of the most optimistic predictions, which included speculation that the social network would introduce its own smartphone or an Internet search engine.

    Dubbed "graph search" because Facebook refers to its growing content, data and membership as the "social graph," the function will be available at first only as a "beta," or trial, for just hundreds of thousands of its billion-plus users.

    It will let users browse mainly photographs, people, places and members' interests. Zuckerberg stressed that people can sort through only content that has been shared with them, addressing potential privacy concerns.

    Shares in Yelp dived more than 6 percent on fears that Facebook's new friends-based search concept will begin to draw users away from the popular reviews site, which also lets people maintain a circle of trusted friends. Google stock held steady.

    Some analysts said Facebook may be taking a tiny step toward eventually challenging Google on its home turf, but said that was a much more challenging undertaking and a long-term possibility at best.

    Zuckerberg stressed that the new graph search did not encompass Internet searches, Google's specialty.

    Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia said the product was inevitable. "We think this will enable them to expand beyond display ads and ultimately compete with Google," he said.


    The world's largest online social network, Facebook is moving to regain Wall Street's confidence after the IPO and concerns about its long-term financial prospects.

    Much of Facebook's recent focus has been on making money from users who are migrating to mobile devices. Zuckerberg said he could foresee a business in search over time, but analysts advised caution. Facebook has come under fire numerous times for unclear privacy guidelines.

    While Tuesday's revelation fell short of some of the wilder guesses about what Facebook planned to reveal in its highest-profile news briefing since its market debut, analysts said it was overdue for a well-rounded search tool, given its current inadequacies.

    Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter argued that recommendations from trusted friends were more valuable than from strangers on the Web.

    Facebook has a vast amount of information in its social network, including roughly 200 billion photos. But some analysts noted that the information each user has access to through a network of friends is not always that extensive and could limit the usefulness of Facebook's search offering.

    "Very well-connected individuals have a rich treasure trove of data that they can mine, but the average person's storehouse of data is much sparser and has less relevance to these queries," said Ray Valdes, an analyst for Gartner Inc.

    Facebook's announcement underscores the increasing overlap between social media and traditional Web search engines. Google, the world's No. 1 search engine, launched the Google+ social network in 2011 and has been integrating data between Google+ into its search engine.

    In the works for more than a year, Facebook's new search feature will initially be available for the English language only and for use on desktop PCs.

    Bringing the search tool to mobile devices, such as smartphones, would probably require a change in design of the product, noted Valdes. "It might be that they have to come up with innovation like voice search, a Siri-like voice assistant to get it to work well on mobile," he said, referring to the technology available on Apple Inc's iPhone.

    Facebook executives at the event showcased a variety of different potential uses of the product, such as finding a date by searching for single men who live in San Francisco and are from India, and creating a holiday card by finding all the photos in which spouses appear together.

    The search technology will use the "likes," "check-ins" and star-ratings that Facebook users have posted about restaurants to determine the order of the recommendations displayed, though Facebook search engineering head Lars Rasmussen noted that users' comments about restaurants don't currently affect search result rankings.

    Zuckerberg said the search tool was a work in progress that would take the company years to fully build out. He pointed to a variety of additional features on the horizon, such as support for additional languages and the ability to incorporate data from third-party services, like online music services, which connect to Facebook.

    "I don't necessarily think that a lot of people are going to start coming to Facebook to do Web search because of this, that isn't the intent," said Zuckerberg. "But in the event that you can't find what you're looking for, it's really nice to have."

    Facebook’s big revelation: new search tool

    Facebook’s big revelation: new search tool

    Feature will help users to sort through content within the social network, says CEO Mark Zuckerberg
    Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a media event at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on Tuesday. Photo: Robert Galbraith/ Reuters
    Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a media event at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on Tuesday.
    Updated: Wed, Jan 16 2013. 01 03 AM IST
    Menlo Park, CaliforniaFacebook Inc CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled on Tuesday a feature to help its users search for people and places within the social network, in the company’s first major product launch event since its May initial public offering.
    Speaking to reporters at its Menlo Park, California headquarters, Zuckerberg described what he called “graph search,” which allows users to sort through only content that has been shared with them — addressing potential privacy concerns.
    Available as a “beta” or early version now, the new feature — dubbed “graph search” because Facebook refers to its growing content, data and membership as the “social graph” — will initially let users browse mainly photographs, people, places and members’ interests, he added.
    Zuckerberg promised users will be able to tailor their searches, such as by specifying music and restaurants that their friends like, or their favorite dentist.
    The news drove shares in Yelp Inc, which focuses on customer reviews of restaurants and other popular services, about 7.1% lower.
    “You need to be able to ask the query, like, who are my friends in San Francisco,” Zuckerberg said. “Graph search is a really big product. It’s going to take years and years to index the whole map of the graph and everything we have out there.”
    “We’ll start rolling it out very slowly. We’re looking forward to getting into more people hands over coming weeks and months.”
    Critics have long deemed the social network’s current search capabilities inadequate. Zuckerberg stressed that Facebook was not getting into Internet searches, Google Inc’s specialty.
    The world’s largest online social network, with more than one billion users, Facebook is moving to regain Wall Street’s confidence in the wake of a rocky IPO and concerns about its long-term money-making prospects.
    Speculation had approached fever pitch over the past week about what Facebook planned to reveal in its highest-profile news briefing since its market debut. Guesses had ranged from a long-rumored smartphone to a full Web-search product.
    That anticipation, as well as expectations of strong fourth-quarter financial results, have helped boost Facebook’s stock. Its shares are up more than 15% since the start of the year.
    On Tuesday, its stock was off 0.3% at $30.84.