Is Facebook’s Graph search meant to take on Google?

Four days ago Facebook unveiled its new Graph Search, currently available “in a very limited beta program for English (US) audiences”. The event didn’t go unnoticed for tech journalists, bloggers and investors but the market was not overly enthusiastic as the Facebook Search was expected to a. Have some kind of innovative or at least clear monetizing model and b. Take on Google.

Facebook Graph Search

While not much is known about the search business model, if there is any whatsoever, the markets did in fact took notice of Facebook’s bold move but were not really impressed. Facebook’s stock price actually dropped slightly as everybody was expecting something larger – such as an alternative to Google or maybe … say … the Facebook phone.

Following the launch, Google and Yelp’s stock prices also dropped as worries regarding Facebook’s new search could potentially mean a blow to both companies.

Facebook stocks evolution

So – is Facebook really going to be a competitor to Google?

The markets expected Facebook Search to be the Google killer but apparently Facebook is not headed that way. Even though Facebook was the most searched term in 2012 and roughly 1 in every 5 web pages viewed online are on Facebook, it doesn’t mean that it can or at least wants to take on the search giant.

Apparently there is no need to. With almost 20 percent of all traffic in the world and 1 billion users on its servers, Facebook does not want to compete on Google terms or turf. People have what they need inside Facebook and are willing to use it even more. They have their friends references regarding places, people, photos and others, all related to users’ social networks.

Now regarding those social networks: it seems that Facebook’s stand on privacy is close to “what privacy?” as results rely on information from friends, whether those friends want it to be found or not. This leads to the following issue:

How long will it take users to accept the fact that Facebook does not care about the concept of privacy?

Younger generations are used to living socially-open, as most of their data, their habits, their social networks are available freely online. They have no problem with using the Graph Search or letting Facebook browse to their personal info so friends can get better search results but what happens to the older generations?

Facebook is pretty much a monopoly when it comes to social networking and users have their data trapped inside. It’s pretty hard to leave the network as social bonds become stronger and stronger. Because of this, even though some cries for privacy will be heard, not much resistance will come in the way of the mighty Graph Search. But the company will not stop here as graph search seems to be more than just a feature. It’s a step closer towards users’ everyday lives and it will probably usher in the next big thing: the Facebook phone.

Is the Graph Search a step closer to the Facebook Phone?

Maybe the Facebook Phone will not even be a phone. Maybe it will be a tablet, or another kind of everyday usage device that we are not yet familiar with. The point is Facebook is moving closer to our everyday lives. Most of the features showcased in the Graph Search demo page have real day-to-day applications.

People need to have Facebook closer in their lives before the company can even start to think about a hardware foothold in its users existence. Before the iPhone there were the Macs, the evangelists, but most important – there was the iPod. The iPod was the foundation on which Apple built its hardware ecosystem on. The books were Amazon’s foothold in people’s lives when they launched the Kindle. Facebook too will need to build this kind of foundation before launching its device and the Graph Search is a really big step in that direction.

Author: Mihai Mike Dragan

Mihai Mike Dragan is an ecommerce expert and the cofounder and COO of Oveit, a global company focusing on live experiences technology, both virtual and in-person. Mike has an experience of over 15 years in building digital products, with a focus on ecommerce. He has worked with some of the largest consumer brands in the world, advising on their digital go to market strategy.   Mike Dragan is also the author of the "Understanding Omnichannel Retail - beyond clicks vs. bricks" ebook, a guide for companies that understand consumer behaviour across media. He holds two degrees, one in International Economics and one in Computer Science.

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