Facebook has announced its new Graph Search feature, and while we still have to fully digest the impact of this, it’s pretty obvious that its foray into search clearly outranks the very limited search capabilities of its competitor Google+. Google, on the other hand, just announced an easier way to share food photos on Google+.
Even though Google has heavily invested in its Knowledge Graph technology, none of those capabilities have yet made it into Google+, and the search tool on Google’s social network only focuses on people and keywords. Typically, if Google gets wind of a competitor’s feature, it tries to at least say that it is working on a similar feature. The best example for this lately was its Google Maps event that focused on its new 3D maps just before Apple was rumored to make a similar announcement for iOS. Maybe Google – just like the rest of us – was also taken by surprise that Facebook would launch Graph Search today. But it’s somewhat telling that the only Google+ announcement it made today was about an easier and quicker way to share images of food you upload to Google Local to Google+ (because social networks need more pictures of food, I guess).
Maybe this isn’t quite fair, given that Google+ often launches a few small new features per week, but it’s pretty obvious that Facebook is now able to mine its users’ data and make it searchable in compelling ways while Google+ sits on the sidelines.
Google tried to make social search (a.k.a. Search, plus Your World) a centerpiece of its regular search experience, but it hasn’t really emphasized this lately (and maybe even scaled back its efforts). The one thing Google doesn’t have, of course, is data from Facebook, but it’s interesting that it hasn’t really made any updates to search on Google+ either. The use cases for Graph Search that Facebook highlights – to find friends who like a certain activity or place or find photos of somebody from before a certain date – all apply to Google+, too. The irony of this, of course, is that some of the key members of the team behind Graph Search came from Google, including Google Maps and Wave inventor Lars Rasmussen.
As our own Sarah Perez pointed out earlier today, Google doesn’t have access to the same kind of structured personal information about its users as Facebook has. It does, however, have the ability to use what it knows to build very compelling search experiences, as Google Now, for example, clearly shows.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Google+ got a better search experience in the very near future that mimics what Facebook is doing now. For the time being, though, Facebook has once again expanded its lead over Google’s own social network.