Two weeks ago Facebook held a press conference to announce the arrival of the social networking site’s newest feature—Graph Search. Like other Facebook developments, Graph Search has evoked both positive and negative reactions. On one hand, Graph Search is extremely innovative; on the other hand, it’s extremely creepy. We wouldn’t expect anything less from you, Zuckerberg.

So, What Exactly is Graph Search?

Graph Search is Facebook’s very own search engine. But it’s not a web search engine, like Google, Bing, and all the rest. With Graph Search you’re literally searching Facebook, and the search results are generated by grabbing information from user profiles. This information can include a user’s sex, age, religion, location (both hometown and current city), marital status, education, likes (including music, movies, television shows, video games, books, places, hobbies, sports, etc.), places where you’ve checked-in, pictures you’ve been tagged in, and more.

The searches you can do are practically endless. While writing this blog post I wanted to do an example search to demonstrate what the capabilities of Graph Search. I ended up wasting a good twenty minutes refining and re-refining my search because there were so many different combinations to search! Here’s the example I ended up with:

This search originated from a “People who like the things I like” search, and it’s not nearly as specific as it could be. The images below show you how I could have refined the search even more:

The image above is the condensed version of the “search refine.” If you think that looks pretty thorough, take a look at the extended version:

And Facebook’s not done yet! Here you can extend your search even further:

Keep in mind that the owner of the Facebook account I used for this does not live in L.A., has never attended UCLA (or knows anyone who has), and is not a fan of Rihanna, running, or Starbucks on Facebook.

Invasion of Privacy?

Facebook insists that Graph Search does not violate anyone’s privacy rights. This means that all of the single UCLA students, who live in Los Angeles, speak English, and like Rihanna, Starbucks, and running that showed up in my search results have all of that information about them set to public in their privacy settings.

Still, some believe that Graph Search is a terrible invasion of privacy. Others—like Mark Zuckerberg—believe that people need to be more responsible for checking their privacy settings.

If you’ve been keeping up with the Graph Search news at all I’m sure you’ve heard of the Actual Facebook Graph Searches Tumblr account created by Tom Scott. He posts screenshots of Graph Searches that are so contradictory and/or ridiculous you can’t help but find them amusing. On his Tumblr he states, “Graph Search jokes are a good way of startling people into checking their privacy settings.”

Here are a few of his searches:

Mothers of Jews who like Bacon

Married people who like Prostitutes (…and the spouses of those people)

Current employers of people who like Racism

The Waiting Game

There’s no doubt that Graph Search is innovative. And as creepy as it may be, you have to admit that it’s also pretty cool. From a business standpoint, Graph Search has the potential to open up a lot of doors for a lot of industries. The recruiting community is certainly thrilled by the search engine. There have also been tons of “how to grow your business using Graph Search” blog posts written already, with a few new ones popping up every day.

Tech bloggers are even starting to discuss whether or not Graph Search will give Facebook the chance to rival Google as a search engine.

It will definitely be interesting to see if and how Graph Search will revolutionize Facebook, and possibly the Internet. It will also be interesting to see which of your friends and family members need a lesson in Facebook privacy settings. I’m excited to see how it all unfolds.

Graph Search has only been released as a beta for now, and only a handful of Facebook users currently have access to it. You can join the waiting list here.

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Tags: facebook, graph search