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Facebook Graph Search review: Now discover what you haven't been looking for

Ankit Tuteja | http://ibnlive.in.com/byline/Ankit-Tuteja.html

Updated: January 29, 2013, 7:29 PM IST
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Facebook Graph Search review: Now discover what you haven't been looking for
Facebook Graph Search lets you make random searches, while some will keep you hooked, a few will dismay you.

New Delhi: When Facebook had announced its Graph Search feature earlier this month, I, like so many of you, was eager to get early access to the new feature, which Facebook calls the third pillar of the Facebook ecosystem. I signed up for Facebook Graph Search, which is currently beta, and had been anxiously waiting for and last week Facebook added it to my profile. Since then, I have been toying with it to check its relevance and to ascertain how this new feature works with different Facebook privacy settings.

With Graph Search added, my Facebook page looks different at the top with a bigger search bar, and the menu items that were on the left of the older Facebook top navigation were shifted to the right.

Using Facebook Graph Search, I made innumerable random searches. While some managed to keep me hooked, a few dismayed me. I also tried all combinations to detect that whether this feature disrespects your privacy settings. My experience tells that Facebook Graph search does seem to ignore some of your privacy settings and also overrides others.

Let me explain. For instance, there are three Facebook users A, B and C. A and B are friends, while C is not friends to either A or B, but he knows only B, not A. Now, A tags B in a photo named 'Pic 1' and makes it public. B has made the privacy setting that only his friends (B's friends) can view posts by others that he has been tagged in.

Now C comes in, and this brings to light that how Facebook Graph search allows one privacy setting to override another. C, who is using Facebook Graph search, searches for 'Photos of B' and C can easily see 'Pic 1' even though B has set that only friends can see posts he has been tagged in. Though C is not friends with B (or for that matter even with A), but using Facebook Graph Search, C can see that particular photo. This is because, A had made the image public. Here A's privacy settings overrules that of B who has been tagged in the photo.

Logically, since A has made the image public, it is there for anyone to see, but as I had mentioned earlier that C does not even know A, and when a user doesn't know somebody, he will not also under normal circumstances be looking for and searching through the images he has posted. This changes with Facebook Graph Search. Now C can very easily get to see at one place the images that B has been tagged in, even though B does not want anyone else but his friends to be able to see that he is tagged in there.

In my first week with Graph search, this privacy override seemed to be the only glitch. Some searches are bound to make the single-and-ready-to-mingle Facebook users glad. For instance I had many options to scroll through when I looked up for "Females who are single and date and live in New Delhi, India". Now my next date is probably only a graph search away.

With Graph Search, you can now view a more organised and detailed friends list. Just write "My friends" in the search bar, and you will get an elaborated friends list which include details like current city, number of mutual friends, and when had you become friends with a person. Also, it lets you narrow down your search based on gender, current city, employer and more. For example, if I am planning to move to Mumbai and want to know who of my friends are currently reside there, instead of visiting everyone's profile to know their current city, I can refine the search by simply choosing Mumbai from the auto suggest options.

When I searched for "Photos of My friends", it gave me an unending collage of photos with photos that I had never seen or skipped accidentally. It surely did revive my old memories.

For foodies, this new search tool is also of great help. Users can search for the restaurants nearby and can refine the search based on their locations and cuisines they want to eat. Also, users can search for other categories such as hairstylists, bookstores, cafes, gymnasiums and shopping malls. The database appears to be voluminous in some categories, while in others the results are quite limited. I searched for bookstores near New Delhi, and it gave me only five results. Facebook does need to add more place information about Indian cities.

I intend to buy a Nexus 4 smartphone and thought of seeking Facebook Graph Search's help. As the phone has not been launched in India yet, getting one from the US seemed to be the logical alternative. I first searched through my friends who live there, when that didn't yield the desired result, I searched for "friends of my friends who currently live in USA" and indeed a lot of my friends' friends have US mentioned as their current place of residence on Facebook. It has now became easier for me to identify whom to approach to help me own a Nexus 4.

The first version of Graph Search currently focuses on four areas - people, photos, places, and interests. While initially it engages and intrigues, but over a period of time, I found myself losing interest. Graph Search is still not as robust as web search and focuses more on phrases than random keywords, something takes the ease away from it. But it does leverage Facebook's biggest asset - people. Over one billion of them.

If you have not yet got Facebook Graph Search, you are suggested to change your language setting to English (US) as Facebook is rolling the new features to users with this language setting. Once you have changed your language setting, you can apply here.

First Published: January 29, 2013, 7:29 PM IST
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