Understanding Unicorn: A deep dive into Facebook's Graph Search

Summary:Facebook engineers offer an inside look at the magical creature holding up the social network's new Graph Search platform.

"It's kind of like the flux capacitor," Curtiss quipped, referencing the fictional technology from the film Back To The Future that supposedly made time travel possible. "The Apply Operator is what makes Graph Search possible," Curtiss added, being that the Apply Operator connects users to things to which they don't have a direct connection.

In the case of finding more employers, Curtiss explained how the Apply Operator opens the door from just finding the employers of friends to finding the employers of the friends of his friends who live and work in New York City.

However, Curtiss admitted that the problem with the Apply Operator is that the search results increase exponentially as you continue, which he argued makes sense when you think about simple math.

Lassen concluded, "This journey is one percent done, which means we realized there's an enormous opportunity to do more in this space."

Curtiss explained that when you request edges of 100 nodes, that retrieves 10,000 output nodes, and then from there that requests the edges of those nodes to retrieve one million output nodes.

Simply put, Curtiss asserted you need to filter it down in some way. That's where social ranking comes in, and the direct friend connections (as well as more fine-tuned search terms) come back into play.

Yet Graph Search is still relatively new and not available to nearly all of Facebook's user base yet. In fact, it's only available in English to "hundreds of thousands" of Facebook users right now, and the team wouldn't reveal when access would be rolled out to everyone.

Citing one growing pain on the agenda, Lassen noted that in order to index all of this data, the engineering team needs to do "some fundamental scalability work."

While acknowledging that Graph Search still has a long way to go, Curtiss said that the team has some "clever ideas" about how to make it better, adding that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has expressed that this is a project he really cares about.

Lassen concluded, "This journey is one percent done, which means we realized there's an enormous opportunity to do more in this space."

More coverage on ZDNet about Facebook's Graph Search:

Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration, Mobility, Developer


Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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