Review: Facebook Graph Search, a new paradigm shift to search

Facebook launched Graph Search at a big press event at its Menlo Park, CA headquarters almost exactly four month ago. I immediately joined the “waiting list”, not just for graph search, but also for “Newsfeed”.  But after month of waiting, i wrote a rant expressing my frustrations as to why the social network hadn’t released not just Graph Search, but its new NewsFeed (which hasn’t still shown on my account) and the Reply button.

However, about a month ago, Graph Search appeared on my account! Facebook said they would be rolling out the features gradually and so if you’ve not seen them in your account, you just have to sit and wait.

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Facebook Graph Search allows you to find, using natural language, just about anything that Facebook’s database of people can hold, and narrow results down by specific categories like music, places, photos, video games, and more. With Graph search, you can perform alot more human friendly or social searches around your friends or community or interests — and i had a month to test it out for myself and prove whether or not the feature matches up to the hype.

Longer search bar

Longer search bar

Longer search bar

The first thing you’ll notice is a longer search bar which covers half of the page width and the re-positioning of the notification, messages, and friend request icons. The search bar which is as wide as Google’s search bar is wide enough to enable you enter search queries in a more human or natural language. A query like “friends of mine who live in Kampala and like jazz music by Isaiah Katumwa” requires a long text area to enter.

Smarter Auto-completion

Smarter Auto-completion

Smarter Auto-completion

The idea behind auto-completion is not just to save you some minutes and energy of typing, but also to help you compose and refine your search query in real-time while the system suggests to you key phrases what suit whatever you’re looking for. The previous(current for some people) search was really frustrating, auto-completing with results that have nothing to do with what you want. But the new one scores really high in helping you better refine your query while even showing you the search possibilities you didn’t know you could do!

Create more useful search queries around people, places and interests

"Music my friends like" result

“Music my friends like” result

This is the crux of the the whole Graph Search. The Graph is meant to allow you  you can perform a lot more human friendly or social searches around your friends or community/places or interests.  So i gave it a spin and entered queries such as “Music my friends like” which listed Qwela, H.O.P Band, Tamba among others — all of which are local music music bands. This means that if i want to “like” some Music Bands on Facebook, then Graph Search can give me a quick heads-up based on what my friends already like. I Also searched “Restaurants in Nairobi Kenya my friends have visited” which gave me some interesting suggestions.

"Restaurants my friends in Nairobi Kenya like" query

“Restaurants my friends in Nairobi Kenya like” query

The implication is, should i visit Nairobi and wish to have breakfast, obviously i would trust those restaurants that my Kenyan friends have visited rather than bump into some strange one, however fancy it may look.

I’ve also performed more interested searches like “People who have worked at MTN and live in Kampala”. This is particularly interesting for HR people or those in hiring positions looking for prospective employees that fit a certain criteria!

The search results contain a side-bar on the right that also enables you to “extend” or refine your query as seen in the screenshot above.

Only works well with better data

No results

No results

Graph search works with tones of data to churn-out a better result set. If your  friends haven’t liked any places, or haven’t added their interests in their profiles, have no photos, then don’t expect much!

Web results within Facebook

Web results in Graph Search

Web results in Graph Search

Now, Graph Search wasn’t made for crunching the web archives for pieces of information regarding what you’re trying to look for as Google search does it! However, with the partnership that Facebook has with Microsoft, you can as well search not just your social graph, but also the web as we know it through Microsoft’s search engine — Bing. Hence in way, Facebook’s Graph Search is a double-edged sword as it combines the best of both worlds.


While Graph Search introduces a completely new paradigm shift to search and has been hyped or praised  by the media and Tech pundits including he Wall Street Journal which called it a “direct competitor” to Google while CNN reported that Yelp’s stock is down following its announcement, it’s going to take time and user buy-in for Graph Search to be truly worthwhile.

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