Hands On: Facebook’s Graph Search is handy, for now

Facebook released its Graph Search today, but sadly, this is only available in beta, and the public won’t have access to it for some time. We got some 1-on-1 time with the search to show you just what you can look forward to.

Search is easy and unobtrusive. The bar sits hidden at the top of your Facebook page in a big, blue bar. When you are on your news feed page, the bar will say, “Search for people, places and things” in opaque text. When you’re on your page, or a friends page, the name of that person’s profile will appear in the blue bar. You’re still able to click it and immediately start typing your query.

When you start typing your questions, Facebook will suggest search queries and clean up your question. You might ask, “Which of my friends like The White House?” and it will simplify and suggest “My friends who like The White House.”

The search could be most useful for situations like finding friends in a specific city you plan on visiting or finding people who like a band you’ve got an extra ticket to see. You can also use it to search for things “nearby.” If you’re looking for friends who live near your current location, you can look for “friends nearby.” If you need a hospital, you should call 911, but you could also search on Facebook, and it shows you the hospitals in your area  (while you’re bleeding out, of course).

I really like the feature that lets you look at all the pictures you’ve previously commented on, or previously liked. It helps recall old memories, or locate photos you may want to disappear.

The unfortunate part is that you can’t search for queries such as “Which of my friends are selling tickets in San Francisco?” or “Which friends are sick?” For example, the app Help, I Have the Flu searches your Facebook feed for posts that include the words “sneezes,” “flu,” or “coughs.” It’ll happily send a message out to your friends letting them know to send you soup because you’re stuck in Tissue Town.

Zuckerberg said that the engineers have lot of feature that they want to include in the next release, including indexing more data on Facebook. Perhaps that means we’ll be able to search status content some day.

The web search function isn’t that bad, but I don’t see people using it very often. Whether you’re a Bing lover or not, the web search function feels more like a supplement to the Graph Search in the last case scenario where you’re not able to get what you need from Facebook’s results. Browsers today come with easily accessible search bars too, making it an unnecessary step to open Facebook to grab a quick bit of information not specific to your friends circle. Of course, Facebook acknowledged that this wasn’t meant to be a web search product, and said the partnership with Bing was not exclusive.

If you do, however, want to access web search, you can, well, search for it and click on the web search icon. Facebook’s search can still be used for traditional queries such as finding a friend or brand profile.


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