Facebook spent quite some time building hype before an announcement yesterday that turned out to be a let down for consumers who were expecting something thrilling and shareholders who were expecting something to make them money. Instead what they got was Graph Search, which Zuckerberg claimed will transform the site - making content among friends searchable.
Zuckerberg declared Graph Search would present a Third Position. Its function is to map out, and make searchable, the connections of people, locations, and what they like. In a typically gushy promo video, Facebook demonstrates its use by showing a search bar with queries like 'my friends who like dancing', among other things, that will then group together your friends with a common interest, as well as related photos or other content. The company also claims users will be able to use the graph to make brand new connections through shared interests - promoting a sort of add friend, learn about them later sensibility.
Facebook said that the entire concept is also built around privacy, meaning searchable content will only be possible to access if it has already been voluntarily shared with your account. At the moment there is a waiting list for its limited beta rollout for US English audiences, and the service will continue to be developed on an ongoing basis.
Although naming no names, in a statement, Facebook was enthusiastic to point out that Graph Search is a different beast from web search - and quite clearly outlined that it would not be going head to head with Google, as the search is within a network rather than crawling the web.
While the service seems like a neat addition to the social network, it might not be the third pillar of Facebook Zuckerberg hopes it will - at least for personal use. However, Graph Search could be enormously useful for promoters who use their Facebook profile as their main promotional vehicle - effectively bringing targeted advertising within the reach of a normal user, for free. We've been in touch with Facebook to see if the service will also work with fan or company pages and are waiting on a reply. Again, the service could be very useful for pages that already have a very large audience.
Depending on how much Facebook opens up Graph Search, it could also offer an opportunity for third parties to use the function for all new apps.
Regarding personal use, one user we spoke to said: "I'm going to use it to find sexy people who live near me and like The Strokes". While another said he would try to crash Facebook by searching "friends who like cats".
From a business perspective, the announcement does not seem to have impressed shareholders, as although the value was raised prior to the announcement, when the buzz settled down the company's stocks dipped below $30, as Tech Crunch pointed out. This is the first major Facebook announcement since the company was forced to go public. Zuckerberg has since been tasked with creating a killer app to extensively monetise the network compared to the bubble of its enormous initial valuation.
It recently emerged that Facebook has been losing hundreds of thousands of users in some of its top ten key markets - with as many as 600,000 dropping the service over December in the UK.