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Facebook Graph Search could come in handy, to some people, maybe

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks Facebook headquarters Menlo Park Calif. Tuesday Jan. 15 2013. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

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Updated: February 17, 2013 6:41AM



Iwas in New York on Monday for a meeting with a gent from London and another from Stuttgart. I’m not a New Yorker but on the basis that I was, at least, a native of the country that New York City is in, I should suddenly pick a place for lunch.

I really could have used Facebook’s new Graph Search feature, which they announced at a special media event on Tuesday. I could have hit Facebook and searched for a restaurant in Midtown Manhattan that was liked by many of my local friends or even friends of my friends within the previous six months.

When you consider the breadth and depth and timeliness of the data that’s being posted to Facebook every minute of every day, the value of Google-style power searching of Facebook data is immediately obvious. So obvious, in fact, that it’s remarkable that Facebook has made it to a billion users (a self-reported figure) without giving those people something like this years ago. It’s quite slick; you can type “people who graduated from Boston University and work at Disney” and bang, you’ve got a list of fellow alums to hit up for a possible studio tour.

Graph Search begins rolling out to a sliver of Facebook users immediately and will slowly become available to the entire community over the coming weeks. During the media event, CEO Mark Zuckerberg carefully assured the media that users’ existing privacy controls would apply to any content that could be “seen” through Graph Search.

The feature keeps Facebook rooted in 2003, not 2013. Google keeps coming up with ways to articulate its search features so that it can incorporate and integrate the whole Internet. Facebook keeps trying to work like a casino. If your personal information is like currency — and it is — then Facebook wants to keep you inside the building so that you always lose it to them, and not to other Internet services.

This strategy works for the casinos. Will it continue to work for Facebook? I’m skeptical.

If you’re not already a fan of Facebook, Graph Search won’t compel you to change your Internet habits. Even if you are, a search of Facebook data is of limited value. Graph Search probably wouldn’t have helped me on Monday, for example. Not enough of my friends are obsessive enough Facebook fans to report about restaurants . . . and other services are much, much better at delivering restaurant advice from total strangers.

All the same, Graph Search is a positive move. It evens the playing field. I mean, why should faceless marketing corporations be the only ones to benefit from the way Facebook sucks the personal information and social transactions out of our daily lives?



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