Facebook Graph Search: first impressions

Privacy pain

Since we imagine that Graph Search has your stalker sense tingling, we'll go back to the photo search now. Occasionally Graph Search suggestions threw up things like "photos of my friends and 'Bob Hoxtington'", where Bob Hoxtington (who I just made up) isn't a friend of mine. But that's OK because obviously those photos have been set to share with friends of friends.

But it is kind of weird that I can pull up hundreds of photos of someone who, as far as Facebook knows, I don't know. I can just search for photos of Bob Hoxtington and all the photos of him that I have access to are displayed in one mammoth grid. Where does this leave your privacy on Facebook?

I could then print them out and start some kind of insane shrine which, if the photos are location-tagged, I could plot on a map. I mean, if I was that kind of person. I'm not. No, I'm really not. They pay me to come up with this stuff.

You might be fine with your friends' friends seeing photos of you as they flick through an album, but to be able to pull them all up and see them laid out on one page? That's quite a different story. The only way around it is to update your privacy settings so that photos of you (or the tags that say they're you, at least) won't appear tagged to people you don't know.

Lack of options

As far as we can see, there's no option to stop your results showing up in Graph Search to people you don't know beyond shutting down the privacy thing altogether. We'd also like to see Facebook bring in the option to view Graph Search results as someone else (as you can with your profile). It's not quite clear at the moment what bits and pieces will pop up if someone you don't know searches for you.

The other thing that the appearance obsessed will be unhappy about is that there's no way to control the order in which photos of you come up. Searching for photos of Kate Solomon brought up some of my all-time least favourite pictures of me ever, ones that hadn't had any likes or comments and weren't even recent. Why were they so high up in the Graph Search results? Why couldn't I click a button to demote or remove them?

Facebook's relentless protestations that privacy is paramount and it's new drive to push you to update your privacy settings make it clear that it's aware of the possible complaints about Graph Search. Obviously it's not letting people see content that they weren't already allowed to - it's just that the line between what they're allowed and not allowed to see has become a lot more blurred.

The social network also wants you to use Graph Search to make "new connections". We're not sure if that's something that will - or should - take off. While it'll be handy for tracking down people you met at a party (friends with Tina lives in London went to University of Glamorgan), to browse friends of friends for potential new mates then contact them out of the blue is… well… a bit icky.

Data harvest

Still, we can see some handy uses for Graph Search beyond finding a new place to eat or working towards a restraining order. It's now super easy to find out which of your friends like a specific thing. So searching for "Friends who like The National" will show you your friends who like The National. In my case, four of them.

Facebook Graph Search

Here's the main problem with Graph Search from this perspective: I know for a fact that more than four of my friends like The National. I know that of those friends, more than one of them also likes Real Estate, but Graph Search only pulls up one result for friends who like The National and Real Estate.

I know plenty about my friends beyond what Facebook knows. But if I was going by Facebook alone and looking for a gig buddy, well… I'd have a one in five chance of going alone.

Facebook is obviously hoping that everyone will just like more and more things, and that's when Graph Search will become useful beyond finding restaurants and stalking friends of friends you may or may not want to exchange bodily fluids with. That might be useful to you as a Facebook user occasionally, but it'll be more useful to Facebook, which wants to use all the data it can glean from you to sell more ads and make more cash.


If you want to search for something that isn't in the Facebook Graph, Graph Search offers you results from Bing.

Facebook Graph Search

That's a neat way to keep people on the page, but we can't see it replacing Google for generic searches (bears in hats) any time soon.

Very early verdict

If you're a fan of categorising your friends into specific groups, perhaps arranging some kind of Venn diagram to show overlapping interests and then dividing them into ruthless hierarchies, you're going to love Facebook Graph Search.

If you're a fanatical Facebook stalker of people you vaguely know, you're going to really love Facebook Graph Search.

If you're just a regular Facebook user… we're not sure how much use it's going to get beyond the occasional search for something specific when all else (Google) fails. It's an impressive search function, that's for sure - but at the moment, from a user's point of view, it seems like search for search's sake.

News Editor (UK)

Former UK News Editor for TechRadar, it was a perpetual challenge among the TechRadar staff to send Kate (Twitter, Google+) a link to something interesting on the internet that she hasn't already seen. As TechRadar's News Editor (UK), she was constantly on the hunt for top news and intriguing stories to feed your gadget lust. Kate now enjoys life as a renowned music critic – her words can be found in the i Paper, Guardian, GQ, Metro, Evening Standard and Time Out, and she's also the author of 'Amy Winehouse', a biography of the soul star.