Now Facebook is competing with everyone in local search, including Apple and Google

Above: Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, wants some TV ad dollars, too.

Facebook announced “Graph Search” today, a new way of finding and interacting with friends and people on Facebook.

The new search feature will be interesting for people who just want to find out interesting things about their friends or get together a Tolkien-loving crowd for an LOTR video-watching marathon. But what it’s really going to do is open up the vast hoard of Facebook data and eat the lunch of a thousand large and small companies that make money by aggregating and rating what people do and where they go.

Here are just a few examples:

Yelp

Yelp is essentially a social business directory with ratings, strong in entertainment industries like restaurants and bars, but growing in local services like home and automotive and beauty. Now Facebook’s Graph Search will let a billion-plus people type in search queries like: “Restaurants in San Francisco liked by Culinary Institute of America graduates.”

Likes are much lower-fidelity than reviews, but still: watch out, Yelp. (Yelp’s stock just tanked.)

TripAdvisor

SearchI guess having a partnership with Facebook and being one of the first travel sites to integrate with Facebook’s “instant personalization” back in 2011 is not enough to stop Facebook from competing with you.

All that new local search capability that competes with Yelp is also relevant to TripAdvisor. Hotels in New York that my friends like? Most popular vacation destinations in North America?

And it’s not just about what you and your friends like — Facebook explicitly referenced “Bars in Dublin liked by people who live in Dublin,” which is a promising way to find the places locals like, explore the world, and find the best places to visit.

Plus, it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump from that to full-on booking the hotel or setting up a reservation with the restaurant, all within Facebook.

Yellow Pages (and any other local search apps)

OK, so maybe the printed Yellow Pages are passé.

But millions still visit YellowPages.com, which had over 30 million unique visitors just last month. Once there, they’re looking for dentists and carpenters and mechanics and decorators and roofing companies: all the local services that haven’t, by and large, adopted Facebook pages and hard-core social media campaigns yet.

Now Facebook will let you find “Dentists liked by my friends,” and any other service category you can think of. RIP single-function local search sites and apps?

Apple’s Siri

IMG_5056The least of what Siri does is help you phone Mommy without dialing.

The vision for Siri is that as a full-fledged personal assistant, she can help you book hotels, get a restaurant reservation, and find you the best information about what to do and where to go. Siri is a key part of how Apple is fighting Google’ dominance in search.

But now Graph Search from Facebook has the potential to get better answers and find more relevant places, because it has access to a wealth of data Siri can never see.

Can you imagine Facebook releasing a companion app sometime with natural spoken language support and booking deals in place with entertainment, travel, and service industries? I can.

And, of course, Google

Google is the king of search, but Facebook took a little potshot at the giant today by talking about the “difference between web search and Graph Search,” saying that Graph Search is designed to “show you the answer and not links to answers.”

The hope for Facebook here is that if users can search for all the things they want and need inside Facebook; they will never need to leave. And Google, with its Facebook-wannabe Google+, will be starved of searches and then starved of revenue.

. . .

More companies than these will feel the impact of today’s Graph Search announcement, I’m sure. Add your thoughts in the comments.

But one caveat: Until we can get our hands on Graph Search and play with it hard, it’ll be tough to tell how much of this is real and and how much is potential.

One thing is for sure. It’s going to be interesting.

Image credit: Meghan Kelly


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