In the weeks leading up to yesterday’s press conference, everyone and their mother was speculating that Facebook was going to launch a new phone, or even an OS. The cat’s out of the bag, alas, no new phone (thank Gawd!). But Mark Zuckerberg, the illustrious leader of the social media giant did give us two things to think about. A new, and advanced way of searching through Facebook, and new VoIP calling to its Messenger app for the iPhone.
Before you get all excited, know that these developments are only the start of something bigger and better and are in no way changing the way we live, just yet. Both developments have major limitations and expect new advancements to each throughout 2013 and beyond.
THE SEARCH ENGINE – FACEBOOK GRAPH SEARCH
For now, the Bing-powered search feature itself will only be available for a limited audience in English in the US. But you can get on their waiting list now by clicking HERE and scrolling to the bottom of the page.
In short, the Graph Search works by allowing the user to make precise queries based on four subjects: people, places, photos, and interests. From here the site returns answers that are bound by the content and preferences specified by the searcher’s community. What that means is, you’ll only be able to see as much as the privacy settings of others allows you to see.
On that hot topic of privacy, Zuckerberg simply had this to say; “The search we wanted to build is privacy-aware,” and added that “every piece of content has its own audience.” He also said 10% of the computational capacity in Facebook’s data centers is spent doing privacy checks.
“We are not indexing the Web,” said Zuckerberg. “We are indexing our map of the [social] graph.” In short, Facebook users can navigate through the billions of photos on the network, the trillions of user likes, and the connections between users to deliver a more accurate search result of what they were looking for. The catch is that they can only see content that other users have posted as either public and/or viewable to others in their network. Zuckerberg added that users, “want a search tool that can help you get access to things that people have just shared with you.”
INSIGHTS: Does Google need to worry about this? Not really, not now at least. Although the search feature is innovative, it is far from comprehensive or earth shattering. It simply hints at greater things to come. Personally, I hope this sets search engines on a path to delivering greater inference within searches, to an almost “human-like” AI where I can get exactly what I’m looking for outside the words that were typed.
THE VoIP CALLING SERVICE
The new update for the Facebook app this Tuesday brought a little bundle of joy for some. After some hype, Facebook finally introduced its voIP (voice over IP) calling to its Messenger app. Free calling for all? Not just yet.
The Facebook app uses bandwidth from packages like 3G, 4G, wifi, etc. instead of using up your calling minutes from your regular mobile service provider. The obvious and immediate benefit is felt by those of us who eat up all of our talking minutes at the beginning of the month when a friend breaks up with her boyfriend or buys a new laptop and doesn’t know how to use it yet.
But it’s slow going right now. The service is limited to iPhone users and won’t be seen by Android or Blackberry users for some time. Unlike normal incoming calls users will only see push notifications. There isn’t a way to call someone logged in through the internet, nor is there a way to dial 10-digit phone numbers yet. That’s because the ability to call a traditional phone requires telecommunications resources which Facebook doesn’t have.
Although Google Voice and Skype have the upper hand right now, don’t expect Facebook to sit silent after it’s launch for too long. Unlike the other giants, Facebook’s advantage is that it is platform neutral. This means Facebook doesn’t care whether you are a iPhone, Blackberry, or Android user which means its market penetration can come quick and hard.
Now it’s your turn. What do you think of these new developments? Have you already started using the search? Leave us a comment below and let’s see what the community thinks about all this.