Hands-on with Facebook Graph Search

Not impressed with what I've seen so far

Last week, I dedicated my Editor's Corner to rounding up the variety of opinions around Facebook's new Graph Search. On Friday, I was granted access to the Graph Search tool, and as promised, I wanted to share my initial impressions.

As I wrote--upon hearing the announcement a couple of weeks ago--the tool seemed more suited to marketers than individuals who might not have much of a need for a search tool to learn about things their friends 'Like' when normally people who are friends have an inkling about what they like.

That's one issue I've found with the search tool. I can conduct searches for friends who like X, but found in most cases, I already know that. In fact, I'm having a hard time being surprised. For instance, I searched for "Friends who like the Boston Red Sox" and I came up with a list of about 10 friends who had bothered to Like the official team page. Fact is,  I knew that about all of them already and others who I know are fans just haven't bothered to go through the motion of Liking the page.

And that's going to be an issue. I did another search for "Friends who like The Hobbit." Now I know many of my friends love Tolkien, yet only three showed up in the results. Why? Again, because most of them never bothered to Like the page.

Just for fun, I searched for "Friends who like Fifty Shades of Grey." And guess what? It came up empty. Given how popular the series is, I'm guessing at least some of my friends have read it, but nobody took the time to actually Like the page associated with the series--or as one friend said, they're not going to admit to Liking it--or maybe they just didn't actually like it, which could say something positive about my friend's literary tastes.

And that's the trouble. As Owen Thomas wrote on Business Insider, the success of Graph Search is really dependent on how much people share. "Graph Search can only search what people share. And it's not clear most users actually share enough to make searches on Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) interesting," he wrote.

After spending some time with it, I'm finding that I can't help but agree with him. Sure, you can find photos tagged of you and untag them more easily (if you are inclined to do that).  And Facebook has developed a surprisingly nice interface --much more attractive than we are used to seeing from Facebook, but I still don't see this having much utility for most people beyond, as I've said, marketers fishing for information about people.

By contrast, I use Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) constantly throughout the week to find information, define words, jog my memory and more. I can't see using this search tool more than a handful of times, perhaps to track a post I know is there, but is buried in the Timeline. 

But I understand that there are more than billion registered Facebook users worldwide. Perhaps I'm not the typical or the target user, or maybe I'm just missing the utility of this, but I just don't see it being a big deal.

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