Thursday, January 17, 2013

Relevant or Restrictive

Facebook has officially launched (beta) its open-graph search.  The new search is an intuitive way to add filters to your query (what you type in the search box) without checking and un-checking a bunch of boxes in the "filters" section.  Like Google, their goal is not only to make searching and filtering easier, but to make the results more relevant.  

Google has been working on relevancy, at least for those logged into their Google account, by using previous searches and pages visited to help you easily (re)find a page you may have seen before.  They are also starting to incorporate your G+ connections and +1's into your search results.

Facebook took a similar approach by first filtering all results through your friends.  The good news is that "restaurants your friends like" is now a simple query.  The bad news is that for early adopters, (people who like to be first to try everything), and the early majority, (those who like to be second but don't have a problem being the first one of their friends to try something), this "primary" filter of friends can be restrictive.  

How do you find the new Indian restaurant hidden in the strip mall, the new graphic design company, or the latest book from your favorite author?  Solving a unique problem or finding inspiration to be an early influencer can be problematic with these changes.  Growing up with a computer in my hands (my parents owned a computer hardware and software company) I always thought of the web as a place to discover new things.  

Google solved this with a toggle to view "personal" results or "global" results.  For Facebook it may not be an issue.  After all, you are probably just going to search for "pictures from college" and "recommendations for a steak dinner."  In a network and recommendation driven atmosphere, open-graph works.  But Facebook has already created an API so that you can add open-graph to your business site and let people see what their friends are found of.  

As the web continues to change into more of a social place vs an indexed free-for-all, and we begin to segregate into tribes, do changes like open-graph increase relevancy or put up walls around the village?

I'd love to hear your point of view, please add your comments.