In mid January, Facebook, Inc. announced the launch of Facebook Graph. It’s not a “Google Killer” as many hyperbole pedaling blogs suggest. It’s also not a bad idea from a user’s perspective. In fact, I am rather excited about it from a marketing standpoint.
Facebook Graph promises to help users find people who have similar interests and discover products and services endorsed by their friends. It’s like a search engine of Facebook profiles and pages that is based on your friends likes and interests.
Google released a similar addition to their search engine in 2011 with Google Plus Your World wherein they give priority placement to websites and articles based on what your friends (people within your Google+ circle) have +1’d.
All of this gives marketers like myself powerful tools to get lawyers found by potential clients. But on a personal level, I am bothered by the bubble that we are collectively living in with these search tools that give priority or only display things our friends like and we agree with.
I started thinking about my first experience with any sort of search engine about 20 years ago. My father, determined to raise two well-informed children, decided it was time to invest in an encyclopedia. He purchased a set from Britannica. In an effort to stay relevant to the coming computer age, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. also created a computer edition of their volumes compatible with the popular Windows 3.1 operating system. Storage on personal computers was limited so their CD came with an external storage device to hold the vast information that plugged into the printer port. The CD had a program that ran the Netscape web browser and queried the articles in the external storage plug which then displayed the article.
Dial-up internet was slow and still metered. The limited hours provided each month by our internet provider along with the unavoidable blockage of the phone line meant that my sister and I were not allowed to spend a lot of time online. But that Britannica software and plugin drive required no internet connection and introduced me to a whole new world.
I would spend hours typing in random inquiries that would lead me to recommended articles. A search for dreams introduced me to the collective unconscious which referenced Carl Jung, who was born in Switzerland, a nation conquered by France in 1798 which is the year Declaration of Independence signer George Read died, who was a member of the Federalist Party, which gave way to the Democratic-Republican Party who’s supporters were called “Anti-Jacksonians,” referencing political rival, President Andrew Jackson, former U.S. Senator for Tennessee, a state that was originally part of North Carolina, whose state song was written by William Gaston, who went to Princeton, the same school as writer F. Scott Fitzgerald who authored The Great Gatsby, which took place in New York, home of the New York Yankees, whose owner (at that time) George Steinbrenner, III, had a house in Tampa, Florida just 20 miles from my childhood home where I was sitting at that very moment navigating the encyclopedia.
While Google + Your World and Facebook Graph are great for law firms and businesses, great for restaurants, and helpful to users, all of these searches tailored to me, my interests and my friends, I can’t help but wonder what I am missing.
I searched my Facebook account for “dreams” and learned that one of my friends is having a recurring dream involving a mechanical bull. If only they could do a search that would lead them to Carl Jung.