According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, graph search is another pillar of the Facebook ecosystem along with news feed and timeline. The idea behind this initiative is to allow easy access to the massive store of big data Facebook has amassed about so many people. Using the new search feature a user can search for friends of friends who are male who live in New York or for all the photos they have liked. The free form query-based system is the secret sauce here. A demo video of the new service shows you can search simply by entering a query similar to "my friends who like trail running."
COBOL allowed computer programs to be understood by business people and subsequently meant it was easier for changes to be made to code and for businesses to get a handle on what programs were doing. 4GL allowed programmers a very powerful way to merge programming and database access meaning it became far easier to write programs which efficiently accessed large amounts of data. Facebook’s new graph search will give hundreds of millions of users the ability to search for custom answers to questions they may have about their social circle as well as the social circle of their friends. By custom I mean your search for “my friend’s favorite restaurants” will be different than most everyone else’s.
For Facebook, this feature means people will spend more time on their platform and potentially equates to more pages where purchase intent can be gleaned. One of the powerful aspects of Google’s search is the fact that when someone searches for “iPhone cases” they are likely thinking about purchasing one. The same is not the case with Facebook. If you post a status update about going to sleep for example, you haven’t given an advertiser any clue about your immediate intent to purchase.
Graph search could change this by allowing the company to insert relevant ads in a query about “friend’s favorite places to eat in Cleveland.”
Will this new feature be an immediate game-changer for Facebook? Nope. It could bring in a nice revenue stream from partner Bing who will field all the queries which the social network can’t answer on its own. But it will take some time for it to catch and on and for the company to figure out how to monetize it effectively.
In a way, the ability to find things more easily may make people more likely to share. People may start using the social site as a repository as much as they do as a communications medium. And if this is the case, the company gains more valuable data to parse through and show ads against.
See also Facebook Announces Graph Search - The New Way to Find 'The' Answer by TMC's Tony Rizzo.