Last Thursday, the Facebook engineer Lars Rasmussen, opened a thread on Reddit where he answered all the questions he was asked concerning the Facebook graph search. Lars Rasmussen started as a Google engineer working on the Google map project that he co-invented. He also was involved in the Google wave project that later was shut down. It was in 2011 that he was snatched by the Facebook’s CEO to work on the Graph Search. Lars made sure to avoid any question that had to do with the competition going on between Facebook and other Big online giant but at least he was nice to answer question that were related to the history of the graph search.
Apparently he did enjoy the time answering all those questions and that could be noticed by the number of smileys that he used during the interaction. He riddled 18 throughout the discussion.
Facebook has designed the Graph Search to foray its way into the search market. In comparison to other search engines, Facebook’s Graph Search does not use search terms matching techniques where a user can just type a keyword like “sushi” and get as a result all the pages containing the term “sushi”. The difference here is, when a Facebook user types “sushi” on the Graph Search, Facebook uses a natural language algorithm to rather return pages based on the idea that the user is looking for other Facebook friends who like sushi too. With this personalized search mechanism Facebook believes that their search results will be better compared to competitors like Google or Yelp.
Rasmussen said it was in 2010 that Facebook interviewed him. It was around the same time that Google was shutting down Google Wave. Google Wave was actually launched by Lars and his brother Jens. It was about 6 months after this interview that Lars was invited to work with Facebook on the Graph Project. The engineer did talk about the walks he had with Mark Zuckerberg who asked him to join the Graph search team in the late Spring of 2011. He could still relate the to the strong vision that the Facebook founder had. Mark Zuckerberg already knew how compelling a search engine could be over the content users were already sharing on the social network.
When it came to the time of the release, he answered several questions too. On one of those answers he talked about his team and how they caqme up with the first prototype of the Graph Search in the early summer of 2011. He added that the first prototype of the Graph Search was based on the previous search prototype where most of the codes were sourced. That previous prototype was not based on natural language. From that statement it is easy to deduct that in the early days of the Facebook Search project the engineers did explore the idea of coming up with a search engine that was non-natural-language. Actually there was this rumor that came out in 2010 about Facebook about to released a search product that was built over the freely indexable open graph. The product was expected in late 2010 but never came out and Lars’ story gives credence to that rumor.
So Lars was then questioned about what took so long from that point where they already had a prototype is 2010. His answer was there are too many smart people working in Facebook. Apparently Facebook engineers are so concerned about the quality of their products that they prefer to delay the release date and improve on it until it becomes perfect. Then another question had to do with the “Best and Worst” of working in a company like Facebook. Rasmussen answer referred to the fact that there are so many brilliant, passionate, opinionated engineers at Facebook that the company is almost chocked of smart people. That has its own advantage but the disadvantage is, it sometimes take longer before they can arrive at an answer. He added that it took much longer than he predicted before the Graph Search could reach its beta stage. Then to continue he said most of the project he has worked on had that same problem. Time is not on their side especially when they are already behind schedule.
Rasmusseen admitted that after all the delay was for the better. The previous prototype they built wouldn’t have done much when it comes to innovation related to search engine products. But rather in January, Facebook has surprised the world with a completely new search engine powered by natural-language queries. The search engine is integrated with social data at a scale that up to now is not available to any other search engines. No other competitor can offer that.
The press that took part in the discussing taking place on Reddit ask the Facebook Graph Search guru what he thought about competitors like Google and Yelp. But apparently he was not willing to say much about that so all he did was to respond with a smiley face.
Facebook Graph search is not yet available to all users. Rasmussen explained that the intention behind releasing a partial roll out was for the engineers to have a chance to have a few A/B tests on live users and discuss the implications of the results internally. He said that for the team to be sure of what they are doing they need to test some few ideas otherwise they could just be arguing all day long about things they are not really sure about.
At this point the Facebook team is already discussing about the future of the graph. The Facebook Graph Search guru mentioned that he had a recent walk with the CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. The walk went on just last week and the topic of the day had to do with the future of the new search product.
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