Facebook’s really big news: All search, all the time

Facebook’s Graph Search isn’t just aiming to hit Google where it hurts; the social media giant also wants to take down LinkedIn, Yelp, and Netflix.

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It seems pretty clear that this product is the culmination of years of data collection. Seems like Zuck et al needed to hit a critical mass where there were enough fans of bratwurst and yodeling to make this kind of search work. Remember when Facebook introduced the “Like” button? This is what that was really all about.

But Graph Search also makes a pretty huge assumption: That you and all of your friends spend all of your lives on Facebook, checking in, tagging photos, and Liking things with a frenzy. That may be how Zuckerberg and his social graph use Facebook, but it’s now how I use it, nor does anyone I know.

Other interesting tidbits from the dog and pony show:

* Ten percent of Facebook CPU time is spent just chewing through people’s privacy preferences to decide what updates to display and to whom. To me, that’s another good argument for making these controls a lot simpler.

* Zuckerberg demo’d an easier way to find embarrassing photos you’ve been tagged in by others and ‘untag’ them. This is good news any way you slice it. Still, it would be nice to be able to play with this and find the inevitable limitations.

* During the demo Zucky displayed a cute picture of his older sister Randi from 1972 when she was still in single digits. Surprisingly, she did not go on a Twitter rant and accuse him of lacking “human decency.”

Zuckerberg was careful to note, multiple times, that Graph Search doesn’t reveal any more information about you than is already available on Facebook. It will, however, make that information a lot easier to find.

The problem here, as with all Facebook announcements: You can’t just try these things out for yourself; you have to wait for Facebook to make them available to you. (You can sign up for the waiting list and get a very cursory demo of it here.) So it could be weeks or months before we’re able to find out exactly what benefits Graph Search will bring and where the pitfalls lie.

If nothing else, today’s announcement led me to take a harder look at the more than 400 things I have Liked over the years. I’m not sure what they really say about me. But if you’re searching for people in my corner of the world who like faux black leather couches, Joss Whedon, World Toilet Day, Bruce Campbell, Cork Paranormal Investigators, or Boobquake, I’m your guy.

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