By Heather Goldin, Staff Writer
On Jan. 15, Mark Zuckerberg announced a new feature that goes far beyond the introduction of a Timeline or Newsfeed. The new feature, Graph Search, is a potential rival for competitors such as Google or even the typical online dating site such as eHarmony or Match.com.
Graph Search gives the user the option of sorting through pictures, places, people, and other interests. Graph Search also specializes in the ability to search with natural language, or a style that people use in everyday conversation. Examples include phrases like “the best coffee houses in downtown Boston” or “people in my city who enjoy rollerblading.” As if this new feature didn’t sound interesting enough, phrases such as “single men from California who attend Boston University” can also be searched, resulting in a long list of Facebook users who fit the search parameters.
Crazy? Yes. Creepy? Possibly. I think it could be used like a free version of online dating without the long sign-ups and required information. Facebook doesn’t need that information because you already put it on your Timeline.
Online dating is popular, which makes Zuckerberg’s interest understandable despite his statements from the founding of Facebook that the site would avoid being branded as an online dating site. It would definitely be a way to keep Facebook users online longer and away from other sites. More Facebook time is what Zuckerberg needs from users with the lack of growth in adding friends recently. The Facebook Team hopes that with Graph Search, users will be more drawn to adding friends faster, a necessary variable of Facebook’s functionality.
For now, the Graph Search is not yet a threat to other search engines, since it’s still in its beginning stages. Currently, the possibilities of Graph Search are extremely limited and only available in English. In addition, Facebook is the only site Graph Search uses to function, which limits its resources as a search engine. Since it uses user’s “likes” to provide answers for searches, it might not be up to date. Users are bound to have liked something in the past that they no longer like, or to keep activities that they no longer participate in posted on their timeline.
On one hand, Facebook’s new feature appears harmless to bigger sites, but if the loyal users of Facebook jump on board with the new feature they will soon be spending more time on Facebook to update those outdated interests and likes. When Graph Search finally makes its debut, maybe think twice about allowing Graph Search to have access to your data. If you do, remember to update your likes. Otherwise you might end up with a friend request based on a common interest in that band you liked in middle school.