So, this is my first time on the Amnesia Razorfish blog. Please be gentle. I’ve probably already blotted my copybook with an Austin Powers headline reference. But bear with me.
I recently joined the team here as Social and Optimisation Director from the Razorfish London office. Given my job title, Facebook’s announcement this week of Graph Search is a subject that I couldn’t just ignore…
First things first. Hallelujah! For a long time, those of us who have wrestled with Facebook internal search have longed for the day when Mr Zuckerberg and friends would come up with something that didn’t leave users banging their heads off desks/bus stops/tablets in frustration.
Ever since Lars Rasmussen made the jump from Google I’ve been waiting expectantly for that day to arrive. And now it has. To much fanfare from Facebook itself (a new pillar at the core of Facebook’s offering no less) and a proclamation of the beginning of a new socially enabled digital dawn.
There’s been a lot of commentary on the announcement globally, as you’d expect. Wired ran the ‘Inside Story’ on how Graph Search came to be. Lots of back slapping and high fiving in that article. Which seems to sum up most reactions, at least from my (Google powered, shhh, don’t tell) searching.
The mood is pretty positive. Even if Facebook’s share price actually dropped in the immediate aftermath.
Inevitably, a few have chosen to go with the sensationalist headline of how Facebook is now set to slay the big G. My view? Fundamentally, both companies still approach the web from different standpoints.
Zuckerberg himself was quick to point out the differences during the announcement.
Google is still primarily about indexing information, and providing quick access to facts, stats, quotes and places to buy that new must have thingamy bob. While Facebook is still primarily a (giant) closed network where people can keep up to date with what’s going on in the world of their connections.
Yes, Google last year made its own first stab at connection driven results (anyone remember the big reveal of Search, Plus Your World?). And with Google+ it also threw itself, and a considerable chunk of change, into cracking the elusive social nut that other initiatives, such as Wave (Lars’ former foray that ended badly), had failed to do.
Facebook has obviously been keeping tabs on Google’s efforts. But let’s be honest. It’s really only been steady progress Google side, even with features like Hangouts, which didn’t just get me, but also President Obama excited. Zuckerberg won’t exactly have been rocking himself to sleep in fear.
Google’s core is still people finding stuff out quickly. And in all the furore, people seem to have forgotten about the Semantic Web – which is still a big deal for Google. Information connecting with other information to help us discover stuff that both we and even our friends don’t know about.
I italicised this last point as I believe this is the biggest difference. People find things initially through Google, and their favourite (non Facebook) sites, then share it through their networks with people.
There are two different elements, the discovery and the sharing (which can take the form of an endorsement or a recommendation). Google and Facebook, when you strip it back to their core offering, compliment each other ultimately, as they perform different roles.
That’s my two pence, sorry, cents worth in any case.