Facebook has recently announced its new Graph Search product. Aside from needing some very serious counsel on naming a product (Graph Search? Really? Middle America and the rest of the non-tech world will most certainly understand that one….geesh!) it raises many questions about just how patient Facebook and its account holders are going to be around this new idea.
The idea is that, within the large walled garden that is Facebook and its nearly 1 billion users, is a gold mine of information that will help Facebook friends answer questions in ways they never could in the past, AND, to Facebook’s delight, keep users on the Facebook site. Of course, we all know what that will lead to is more ads, but someone has to make the money to keep the lights on in Menlo Park, right?
The trouble out of the gate, however, could be a rather large stumbling block. You see, this kind of search and the data it is using will have to be gathered over time and it will improve as the user uses the service more.
That makes perfect sense to anyone who understands this kind of thing (meaning has any notion that the Internet is not magic but rather bits, bytes, processes etc). Now, and I need you to be really honest here, what percentage of the people who use Facebook have any idea how things on the Internet work? As tempting as it is to say something like 50% that’s just being silly. I would say that if you believed that 25% of the users of Facebook were “tech savvy” then I would say that there is some beautiful oceanfront property in Kansas that I need to sell you right now. 10%? You still put out milk and cookies for the jolly guy in the red suit don’t you?
I would say it is in the very low single digits at best. Thus, when people start to see Graph Search being promoted heavily, once they are done scratching their heads at the ridiculous name, they will try, as best they can, to make it work. They will ask it questions like ” What’s the best Italian restaurant in my area?” when they know there are only two within a lot of miles of each other. They will then get the answer they expected and move on.
That’s for the more rural user. The more cosmopolitan types will ask their legion of friends, “What is the best Thai food in Chicago?” and if none of their friends had any input, they would come up empty and then served up a Bing search result set (I think).
I actually read the other day that a guy could imagine using it to see if he had any friends in a city if he were traveling there. Huh? You have to ask if you have any friends in a city? Amd you call them friends?
Look, I know I am a cynical SOB from time to time, and I don’t want to be negative on this service because there is potential for good value here for local businesses in particular. My concern is that when the results are sparse out of the gate, people will shove it aside and forget about it. Since the vast majority of people in the world are not traveling from city to city every week, they already know most of what they need to know. That is a problem as well.
And last but not least, considering Facebook’s reputation with privacy and some recent chinks in the armor around likes, just how many more mulligans does the service have before people say they have had enough?
Facebook is asking for a lot here. We live in a world that has been spoiled by Google search. Google had the first mover’s advantage of getting a lot of leeway, since with regard to accuracy, speed etc of results since there was not much else to compare it to. Facebook is coming into this at a time where people are much less patient and much less willing to cut a company a break especially when that company has been a bit calloused in its approach to it users in the past.
Will Facebook’s Graph Search fail? I doubt it, but I have a hard time seeing it be what it claims it can be if it is relying on its users for their data, their patience, AND their trust. That’s a trifecta that Facebook is very unlikely to hit.
What’s your take?