Zuckerberg Enthusiastic About Graph Search During 4Q Earnings Call, But Few Details Emerge

By David Cohen 

Facebook’s new graph search feature was touched upon at several points during the social network’s fourth-quarter earnings call Wednesday, but specific details were scarce, as Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stressed that the product is still in beta.

Zuckerberg said during the earning call:

Normally, I’ll use this section to talk about what’s going on in the ecosystem outside of our company, but this quarter, I think we built the most interesting new service using the social graph, graph search.

This is an early beta product, but I’m really excited about it because it’s is an entirely new kind of search. It’s not Web search — it’s structured search over the whole graph of content that people have mapped out on Facebook. It’s good for lots of things that you just wouldn’t use a traditional search engine for — seeing where your friends have eaten or traveled to, browsing photos and content your friends posted, finding new people to meet or recruit for a job, and many other things.

Some of these are big areas where we think there’s room for much better products. Down the line, if we do this well, this could potentially turn into a meaningful business for us. For now, we’re going to continue working to refine the product and roll it out to everyone. Still, I think the way that graph search is different from normal Web search is a good example of how there is going to be this market for a whole new crop of social services in existing markets today that weren’t designed for the principles of real identity and social connections.

Products like graph search that are in beta today but will hopefully grow up to be pillars of the Facebook service and businesses are things that we want to invest in aggressively, and things we feel like it’s the right thing for our business over the long term to invest in aggressively.

On graph search, it’s still early. This is one of the products that I’m most excited about that we’ve built. It’s a completely new pillar of our ecosystem, and I think it’s going to be an important utility that people use. Right now, the whole strategy around this is that it’s a beta product, and we are primarily rolling it out in order to get more data so that we can incorporate the data of how people use it to make ranking better before we do a full rollout. So right now, it’s rolled out to the order of tens or hundreds of thousands of people — not extremely widely. And so we have data, but I don’t think anything that’s really relevant to share beyond that.

Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman also discussed graph search following a question that asked him to compare it with Google:

In terms of the point on structured data, there is open graph in order to help developers and people map out all of the different connections between things outside of Facebook. But, I mean, one of the things that we talked about when we rolled out graph search is that there are more than 1 trillion connections between people and things in Facebook today, and that’s the basis for graph search. I think a lot of the goal of having a utility like graph search is also to give people reason to map out more already-structured connections themselves.

So, you mentioned the Google comparison. I think we’re just coming from a completely different place. Our whole product is people and structured connections to other people and content and things that they like, whereas traditional Web search is the exact opposite. It’s completely unstructured. So I think Google and others may be trying to put in some of the structured foundation, but, I mean, we just have years of having built that up, and I think that we’re just in a completely different place on that.

Readers: Have you used graph search yet?