Answer by Robert Scoble:
It is a threat, but only in the long-term if the others don’t react quickly.
I’ve used the new search engine quite a bit. Yes, it is disruptive to many of those competitors.
Just so you know where I’m coming from, I study how others use Facebook and have built several lists, including these:
495 tech journalists and bloggers:
574 startup investors:
947 tech executives:
But to more directly answer the question.
Let’s say you want to find a Mexican Restaurant near you. Where do you go?
Google? Sure. You coud search for “Mexican Restaurants in half moon bay ca” like this:
You get a list of stuff, some of which have reviews, some of which are noisy intermediaries (directory shows up, for instance). But which one is REALLY good. Which ones do the locals like? Which ones have your friends liked?
Heck, on the Google Result is a restaurant that’s been closed for months (brianna’s). Google isn’t good at cleaning out old stuff (Fourquare, Foodspotting, Yelp, are much better at this).
Now, go do the same search on Facebook with the new Graph Search. You’ll see just how many people have checked in at each place (good indication of popularity and frequency), how many people like it (good indication of brand resonance and impulse to come back), and how many of your friends like it. Along with other details. Far more useful.
Notice Brianna’s is on Facebook too. I reported that, lets see if it gets removed quickly.
Let’s try this on Yelp. I like Yelp because of the reviews and because of the detail. Also its search is optimized for finding different kinds of Mexican Restaurants.
But what’s missing from Yelp? Friends! The reviews are from people you don’t know, and it’s very hard to figure out who the reviewers are because Yelp doesn’t force real names or a real identity system.
Which will happen first? Yelp gets real names and real people, er, friends of yours, or Facebook gets the detail and search quality that Yelp has? I bet on Facebook getting there first.
I like Foursquare for its “explore” feature on mobile phones and also for the tips that people leave on places. But the others clearly have more data. That said, this view doesn’t really show Foursquare’s advantages well, which are really in the tips for each restaurant (I find they are easier to use and more accurate than your average Yelp review).
Here’s the tips for Tres Amigos, my favorite Mexican place in town.
Can Facebook match the tips today? Nope, but it could within short order just because of the number of people who use Facebook and who write about each place.
I know you didn’t bring it up, but let’s look at Foodspotting.
Here you can see photos of food, which is really awesome. You also get lots of Facebook-style likes and interactions on the pictures. Do they get disrupted by Facebook’s search? No. They offer something that Facebook can’t match. Yet. Photos of food taken by real people.
Now, let’s look at LinkedIn.
What is LinkedIn really good at? Finding people in business. Some for hiring. Some to help with a project. Etc etc.
So, here’s a search about Twitter on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is really good at this.
Let’s do a similar search over on Facebook using the new Graph Search:
Shoot me, but the Facebook one looks warmer because I can see who connects us.
But lets go further. Let’s look at Twitter employees who like programming. That’s hard to do on LinkedIn because there isn’t a common “like” system over on LinkedIn.
Yes. Facebook has done something disruptive. As it gets better it will take value away from the other places that people do searching for things.
Some limitations with Graph Search today:
1. No mobile client yet.
2. No content searching yet. (No searches like “who on Facebook liked xxxxxxxxx Quora post”).
3. Very few Facebook members have it yet (and it’ll be rolled out “slowly” according to Facebook execs, which means it might be months before all Facebook members have access to it).
4. You can’t yet use lists in your searches and lots of other searches you will try might not work because Facebook hasn’t hooked up the datatypes yet. As Facebook says so far this is really designed for a small number of use cases: searches for location, people, interests, etc. If you want to search for other stuff it’ll use Bing for the results.
If I were working at one of the other companies I’d be spending a lot of time thinking about how we would counter the threat of a Facebook search/discovery system. The others have time, but not much.
Will it dent any of the other’s profits or such short term? No. This is a long-term threat. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less disruptive or dangerous.