Breakout

Facebook Flop: Big Reveal Falls Flat

Breakout

Taking a cue from vintage Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB) held a hyped up event today, though the results may not have been as exciting as many expected. The social media king pins announced a new navigation feature called "Graph Search" - a product that allows users to enter queries on Facebook and get answers in real time.

Co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg says Graph Search is the third pillar of Facebook, complementing News Feed and Timeline. Graph Search will allow users to ask real time questions to find friends and information within the Facebook universe.

As an example, the search "find friends of friends who live in New York and went to Stanford" would come back with anyone who fit the bill, provided that information had been cleared to share by the user.

"It's a way to dive into the vast Facebook database with all the personal information of the billion people who use it and find answers to your questions about people," says Steven Levy, senior writer at WIRED responsible for comprehensive coverage of Graph Search.

All of which sounds cool at first blush. After the initial glow fades Graph Search also seems like exactly the type of intrusion that Facebook critics abhor. The company says users can opt out of the search results, but to what extent and precisely how that works remains to be seen.

Graph Search is clearly a move by Facebook towards becoming its own self-contained Internet. As Levy points out, there's no reason to leave the FB ecosystem if you can find better, more relevant results to your queries on the site. The not-well-kept secret of Facebook is that it would monetize users by obviating the Internet as a whole, reducing it to a place where you and your extended circles of friends reside.

"People will like it," says Levy who had time to sample the product, "but I think people will also be a little freaked out in some sense and they might want to rethink what they share."

Those of us preferring some semblance of anonymity online may balk, but the more Facebook's vision for the future comes into focus, the harder it is to deny the genius and audacity Zuckerberg & Co. Graph Search is unlikely to move the needle in terms of user count for Facebook, but it's certain to get people talking and clicking, which may have been the goal all along.

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