Facebook Graph Search V’s Google Knowledge Search
Facebook is trying to leverage its social data to essentially create a custom search engine for every user. Then by sorting results further with TF-IDF, it could build something not just different from Google, but potentially better where they overlap as well. Many are asking whether or not this new brand of search has the ability to both gain traction among users and disrupt the current “Google habit”.
Habits are hard to break. Whether it’s smoking, drinking, or something as benign as leaving your dishes in the sink as opposed to putting them directly into the dishwasher, years of quickly broken New Year’s Resolutions suggest that permanent changes in established behavior are easier said than done. Such ingrained behaviors can manifest themselves in a variety of ways, from physical repetition to brand loyalty.
Online habits are no different, and there is no more ingrained habit for most of us than striking that 10-key combination g-o-o-g-l-e-.-c-o-m in a single motion in about half a nanosecond. That hardwired habit is an influential source of Google’s search-related staying power. Ultimately the strength of this habit is a function of two interrelated variables: utility and frequency. There is value in either variable independently, but when combined they reinforce one another. Google clearly occupies the coveted upper-right quadrant on the utility-frequency matrix, and for Graph Search to become an unmitigated success it will need to shoot for a similar space.
An aspect to the “Google habit” is that it gets continually reinforced, day in and day out, just like brushing your teeth. Similarly, people who visit Facebook do it very frequently (about every other day on average) for a significant amount of time (about 6 hours per month on PC alone). This presents an enormous opportunity to develop Graph Search into a more deeply ingrained habit.
A new search habit will only arise if Graph Search can deliver at the intersection of high utility and high frequency. The upper right quadrant is certainly something to drive for, and it will require greater emphasis on the utility dimension if Facebook hopes to leverage its strength on the frequency dimension.