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Searching Facebook with Graph Search

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Facebook has introduced a whole new way to search, using the connections between you and your friends to delve deep into the information graph. It’s more than simple keyword-based searching; you can use natural language queries to discover all sorts of useful information. In this article, author Michael Miller shows you how to use Graph Search to find the best people, places, and things - based on what your friends know and like!
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There’s something new on Facebook, right at the top of the page. It’s a new type of search called Graph Search, and you need to know about it. Not only does it make it easier to find information based on your friend connections, but it also impacts the privacy of your personal information on the Facebook site.

What Graph Search Is – and How It Works

Prior to the introduction of Graph Search, Facebook’s search function was useful only for finding basic content on the Facebook site – pages, groups, and so forth. That is, if you were looking for Bruce Springsteen’s Facebook page, you could search for bruce springsteen and see that page (and similar pages) among the results. Pretty straightforward.

Graph Search significantly broadens this basic search capability. What Graph Search does is find and exploit connections between Facebook friends. Instead of just searching content on the Facebook site itself, it also searches personal information provided by Facebook’s one billion plus users.

Figure 1 Facebook Graph Search changes the way you search the social network.

Most Facebook users have entered some degree of personal information on their Timeline pages – things they like and dislike, where they’ve lived, companies they’ve worked for, and so forth. Facebook’s new Graph Search takes this collective information and uses it to answer both basic and complex questions posed by you and other users.

The answers to your questions come from Facebook connecting what it knows about its one billion users and the relationships between them. In Facebook parlance, the “graph” is its master database of user information, and when you search Facebook, you’re searching the graph – hence the term Graph Search.

For example, Facebook might know that you’ve listed gourmet cooking as an interest in your personal profile and that you currently live in Oregon. If someone searches for gourmet cooks in Oregon, Facebook could identify you. Likewise, if you’ve liked Nordstrom’s Facebook page and one of your friends searches for clothing stores in Oregon, Facebook can put two and two together and use your recommendation to tell your friend about Nordstrom.

Graph Search also uses the historical information you enter in your personal profile – where you’ve lived and worked, where you went to school, and, most important, who you’re friends with. By connecting these facts with your likes and interests, it’s easy enough to discover friends (or friends of friends) who’ve read books by a given author, or find out what are your friends’ favorite restaurants in your hometown.

Even better, Graph Search enables you to tap into this huge database of personal information using natural language queries - unlike Google and other traditional web search engines that require you to enter one or more keywords to conduct a search. Graph Search enables you to enter your queries in plain English. All you have to do is ask a question, as you would in real life, and Graph Search provides the answers.

This means you can use Graph Search to search for my friends who like Arrested Development, or friends of my friends who read mystery books. You can search for restaurants in Miami or hotels in San Diego my friends like. You can even search for photos of beaches in California or people in Minneapolis who listen to Bon Iver. The answers you receive will be both personal and pertinent.

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