Facebook Graph Search hinting toward future of technology

BY SCOTT ONIGMAN ‘15
Photography Editor

On Tuesday, Facebook did what it seems most enormous technology companies are doing these days: getting its leadership up on a stage in a location near San Francisco and introducing a new product.

Instead of a hardware introduction, Mark Zuckerberg introduced “Graph Search,” which is planned for limited release over the coming weeks and will eventually be available to everyone once improvements are made. This new tool is going to be the “third pillar” of Facebook tools, behind News Feed and Timeline.

Graph Search enables the user, (you, me, and the billion-plus users on Facebook) to search for: “anything shared with you on Facebook, and others can find stuff you’ve shared with them.”

To give a taste of what is available: searching for all photos you’ve ever liked, a common photo between you and another person, what current movies your friends have liked, and what bands you may like based on what your friends have liked. In a sense, it opens up a whole new world of online search, something you most likely won’t find on Google or another large search engine.

Graph Search provides a unique result to every single user. This is in part due to the massive amounts of data Facebook controls and has the ability to maneuver through a variety of algorithms. In the promotional video on the Graph Search introduction page, Facebook highlights that it is trying to make “the user’s world smaller.”

All things considered, this looks like a pretty creative innovation from a company that did not have a superb 2012. Its Initiate Public Offering (IPO) in May had a very good start at $38 per share and a market cap of $100 billion but soon plummeted to a low of $19 per share in July. Because of a tremendous conflict of interest by the company Facebook used to handle its IPO, it ended up flopping. The IPO also opened up a torrent of criticism from the media and analysts over Facebook’s business model, which looks likely to change in light of Graph Search.

This not only creates a new outlet for Facebook to sell ads, but it also makes it an even greater competitor with Google.

After Google launched Google+ in 2011, Google thrust itself into Facebook’s realm of dominance. Whether or not Google developed Google+ to steal market share from Facebook, Google had been in the social network sector before in the form of Google Wave and Google Buzz. I never used either of these products, nor do I think they were very successful given that they were not as integrated into the Google ecosystem as Google+ is and they were both discontinued.

Google+’s integration into the Google ecosystem is the primary goal of the service. By using the platform more, you will be lead to Google search, which is where Google generates most of its revenue. The move of Google to encroach on Facebook’s territory represents a popular trend in the technology sphere. Different companies have begun developing products, services, and hardware that directly compete with a well established product.

Competition in the technology sphere has led to an increasingly competitive battlefield: mobile. Technological evolution in this field is no longer tracked year by year, but quarter to quarter and even month to month with new devices and software launching every month.

With the market’s inundation by more powerful, demanding, and engaging technology, where do we go from here? The superficial answer is more mobile. But what do we do after we fully maximize the ability of mobile technology?

At this year’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES), tablets and mobile devices were many of the most widely discussed and reported on pieces. One of the main surprises of the show was that enormous tablets may be a successful response to the smaller tablets that have garnered much press in the last year.

Beyond tablets, technology is becoming more disruptive or more seamless in our lives. Technology is demanding our attention now more than ever, and at the same time it’s capabilities are greater than they have ever been before and can complete even more functions than previously thought.

In a valiant effort to simplify our lives, technology providers, hardware and software creators alike, are looking to innovate in the post-PC world. This requires that our technology use will be less of an obtrusion and require less of our focus.

From Google Glasses to Leap motion, I predict our use of technology to be less intrusive and more useful because of this. By no longer being the focus of our activity, technological innovation and gadgets may come full circle and complete their original intention to assist in our activities and to entertain us, rather than become a burden to use and a distraction from the task at hand.

Questions? Email First at sonigman@fandm.edu.

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