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Five weeks after launch, Facebook gave reporters a ‘State Of Graph Search’ today at its Menlo Park HQ. It’s been rolled out from the original 100,000 users to “hundreds of thousands,” and now a news feed story is appearing to lure people’s friends to sign up for the early access wait list.
This morning I noticed Facebook was admitting a slew of wait-listed people to Graph Search. That’s because now when new people gain access, Facebook automatically publishes a news feed story, e.g. “Eric Eldon just got Graph Search.” Click through those last words, and people can sign up for earlier access, too. Facebook tells me this is a viral driver meant to increase waitlist sign-ups. The story frames Graph Search as the cool new feature you should be willing to beg to get access to.
Beyond user counts and the roll out, today’s “Graph Search Whiteboard Session” saw some of Facebook’s lead engineers delving deep into how people are using its new internal search engine, and how it works on the back end.
Graph Search Director Tom Stocky noted that early usage patterns show people using Graph Search for the same things they use the social network for: looking at friends and photos. “But Places is third” said Stocky, an encouraging sign for local businesses. Interests aren’t getting as many queries.
One thing that surprised Facebook was the ways people search for their friends. Rather than asking for something like “photos of my ‘friends’”, users frequently typed in terms like ‘chums’, ‘besties’, ‘buddies’, ‘homies’, and ‘peeps’. At first those stumped Graph Search, but a dedicated natural language team has now built those in so they’re recognized as synonyms.