Facebook Grows Up
Gross, Daniel, Newsweek
Byline: Daniel Gross
Click 'like' for Graph Search.
"Come and see what we're building," read the invitation to the press, who were summoned to the headquarters of Facebook on Jan. 15. At 1 p.m. ET, the ADD-addled media--along with much of the technology world--focused intently on Mark Zuckerberg's announcement of a new feature: Graph Search, which allows users to scour Facebook for products, services, and places that people in their network like and "like."
Too frequently, Facebook presents as a gangly adolescent. Zuckerberg, naturally, showed up for the announcement in a gray hoodie. But Graph Search is a sign of maturity. At present Facebook offers its users a messy, unfiltered stream of shared material. Graph Search will organize all the photos, opinions, and knowledge on Facebook, much as Google does for the Web at large. Type in a search, and you'll find out which Greek restaurants in Boston your friends "like" the most.
Graph Search doesn't answer the fundamental questions lingering over Facebook's future: can it turn all the eyeballs, wants, and dislikes of its massive user base--1 billion as of last September--into dollars and cents? And how will it adapt to a world in which more and more activity takes place on tiny, ad-hostile phones? (In the third quarter, only 14 percent of the company's advertising revenue came from mobile.) Indeed, many analysts were hoping that the big announcement would involve some huge new Facebook bet on smartphone advertisements.
But while Graph Search doesn't answer all those questions, it was a return to the company's innovative roots, as well as a bet on the long term. …