Hands on with Facebook Graph Search

Friends who like a band? Friends who like an author? There is a lot more you can do with Graph Search.

Remember the time you liked Nickleback’s page on Facebook when you were all of 16? Or when you liked Chetan Bhagat enough to follow his page updates? You may not, but Facebook remembers all your likes, dislikes and check-ins. All of the data, the simple page likes have all been brought back by Facebook, packaged in a fancy, shiny new avatar called Graph Search.

What Graph Search does is simple. You can figure out what your friends like, where they dined last evening, TV shows your friends of friends have been watching or even single people who share the same interests as you without having to leave Facebook. Once you have Graph Search, simply through a string of keywords, you can find out information that you need on a more social level on the social networking website itself.

Excited yet? Or does this sound plain creepy? We took Facebook’s Graph Search for a spin to see what exactly it can do, or not. The first time you start using Graph Search, you will feel like a kid in a candy shop. There is just so much you would like to search for. Funny things your friends like, or maybe figure out great places to go or which movie to rent tonight but don’t know where to start.

Basic searching
I started off by searching for friends who stay in my city. ‘My friends who live in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India’ threw up results of more than a hundred friends. Friends' details were stacked one above the other on the left, along with additional details like where they work, the music they listen to and mutual friends. Facebook understands that I will probably need to fine tune the list and bring it down to maybe friends in Mumbai who hail from New Delhi. Graph Search is equipped with a refine tool situated on the right that helps you filter down your search to the hometown, gender, relationship status and even the school or college attended by your friends in Mumbai. Very stalkerish, right?


Neatly stacked, informative friends card



Dating and relationships
Relationship status has been something of a Facebook speciality. Ever since the feature’s debut, it has generally been considered to be somewhat of a status symbol to display one’s relationship status on the profile. The feature made an appearance on Facebook before it did on any other social networking website and searching for your single friends has never been this easy. What’s better is that you can refine the search with your likes and dislikes.


I left it to Graph Search to suggest single male friends who liked Metallica and let it work its magic. Poor, naive Facebook, with no intimation about why I suddenly felt the need to find ‘single males’ with the same taste in music, threw up results of siblings. Lesson no. 1: Graph Search is in beta. It has a long way to go with becoming more intuitive.

Tweaking some parameters, I asked Facebook to suggest friends of friends who lived in my city and liked Metallica. Not surprisingly, profiles of over a thousand men showed up. I opened up the refine tool further. To my surprise, the tool can help you get very, very specific with criteria likes school they attended, pages they are admins of, people you have interacted via comments earlier and whether or not they are friends with a particular friend.



Oh, brother!


Professional life on Facebook

Next, I searched for colleagues who I am not friends with on Facebook. ‘Friends of friends who work in Tech2.com’ was enough to throw up useful results. Within the list, I could check out their photos, languages they speak, landmarks they’ve visited and more. I was able to view photos my colleagues had been tagged in that were open to public viewing or had their securities set to ‘friends of friends’. Thanks to Graph Search, you would need to be a little more careful about the data you put out on Facebook since information about you would be so easily available. I put my money on people turning this place into a second LinkedIn!


See a lot more about people you work with




Checking in with Graph Search
The check-in feature of Facebook has been put to brilliant use with Graph Search. I searched for 'Chinese places my friends had been to' and got a host of results including pictures my friends had clicked at these places, which would probably make my decision to go to one of these restaurants very easy.


I decided to relive my vacation to the Far East last year and searched for ‘Photos of mine taken in Singapore’. The images rolled out in a neat fashion, stacked in bunches of threes and fours of varying size that made going through them even in a thumbnail format a lot of fun.


Check-ins put to use


Not completely free of glitches
While likes, relationship status, age, location all figure as a part of the Graph Search, one field conspicuous by its absence was Religious views. Trying to search for ‘Friends who are Atheists’ threw up a very confounding ‘Friends who like Atheists’ and ‘Friends who are interested in Atheists’. Facebook did warn me about this, though. Besides the fact that the service is in beta right now, Facebook puts up a small disclaimer at the end of each search that says, ‘Friendship-based searches are still being built, so you may see additional results here in the future.’ Point noted.

Generic searches are a treasure trove
To see how well Graph Search works without the parameter of ‘friends’ involved, I searched for a very generic ‘Photos of Qutub Minar’ and it threw up some very beautiful images shared by not just people, but also pages. If you’re willing to look beyond the general ‘what do my friends watch’ and ‘what do my friends like’, you will discover pure gold thanks to Graph Search. Basically, this was the first real place where I thought Graph Search really showed its worth.


You can spend hours going through these images. Facebook is the new Flickr!


It is very unfortunate that Graph Search has been marketed and packaged in a way that the only use one could think of involves knowing what their friends or people in their extended circle are up to. Graph Search could prove useful for recruiters to spy on candidates too. Potentially, this feature could also put an end to the cumbersome, timeline themed friendship pages too.


But most of all, Facebook has struck a lottery with a way to make more money off advertisements. Businesses like restaurants that already have their ads and sponsored stories appear on Facebook would love nothing more than Facebook recommending them to people searching for places to eat close to them.

Creepy as it may sound, Facebook would do well if it can manage to dig through tons of status updates, comments and likes on various stories and photos if it has to truly and surely understand a person and his likes in order to spring him up during a search.

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.