land grab

With Graph Search, Facebook attempts to turn all other social networks into mere features

January 15, 2013
January 15, 2013

“Graph Search is a powerful recruiting tool,” said Tom Stocky, director of product management at Facebook, in a press conference held today at Facebook’s offices in Menlo Park, California. Graph Search, just announced by Facebook, is a significant upgrade to Facebook’s search tool, allowing users to type natural language questions into the toolbar at the top of facebook.com and receive results from their network, in real time.

Once Graph Search rolls out, says Stocky, it should be easy to search through the profiles of friends of your current employees, who tend to be “a good place to start for recruiting.” In one example, he points out that it’s easy to use Graph Search to find out who works for a competitor and is already friends with one of your current employees.

Considering that Stocky is a former Googler himself, it’s hard to imagine that he hasn’t already tried, for example, “Google employees who are friends of Facebook employees.” Let the poaching begin!

If this method of recruitment-through-connections sounds familiar, that’s because it’s also the model of LinkedIn, a social network that has distinguished itself from Facebook by being a much more sound investment with better-defined ways to make money, such as subscriptions.

During his presentation, Stocky also pointed out that Graph Search could also be used, for example, to find friends of friends who are single and live in your city. Take that, Match.com. Graph Search can also search by geographical location, so it’s not a stretch to imagine asking it for restaurants that friends enjoyed in the area, representing a more functional version of Yelp, which is down more than 6% today.

Taking this trend to its logical extreme, it begins to resemble the “search wars” of the 1990s, when many analysts thought that topic-specific search engines had a role to serve. Right up until Google ate them all.

The intent here is clear: If Graph Search works as advertised, Facebook has just found a compelling reason to make itself the default place to store all the information about yourself that you’d like to make public. Looking for a job? Make sure the portions of your profile that constitute a resume are current. Looking for a mate? Time to update that relationship status and get yourself some scintillating new hobbies. Facebook is even advertising Graph Search as a tool for journalists, a tactic copied directly from LinkedIn, which has long pitches itself as a way to learn more about sources and companies.

This is not a frontal assault on LinkedIn and dating sites, at least not yet. But as Zuckerberg emphasized during his presentation, Graph Search is still in beta, still being tested, and will only be rolled out slowly. You can bet that if users take a shine to it and start uploading more information about themselves because they want to be found, Facebook will use it as a way to turn other social networks into mere features of facebook.com

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