December 11, 2010

Facebook's Friend Finder: The Largest People Database?

While most of the press around Facebook's recent enhancements centered on the emergence of new profiles, the world's default social network has recently rolled out a number of other changes that make the site further revealing in terms of what you share, and more interesting, let you tap into the nearly 600 million people on the site to find new connections. The new friend finder, which encourages you to find new people in your hometown, school, employer or more, even lets you tap one degree away and find friends of friends. The result is a rich people discovery database that makes friending more likely thanks to shared connections.

What has made Facebook compelling ahead of practically every other social network out there in the last decade is the focus on real personal identities, connections to a shared history and experience. As the network starts to surface more relevant and popular content in the news feed and gets to know what you like in a more personal way, this will no doubt continue. Thus it was no surprise to see Facebook CTO Bret Taylor (formerly FriendFeed's CEO) say "Facebook is completely personalized. Every time you visit, you get a unique personal experience." in a recent interview with Forbes.

Facebook Says to Find Friends from Your Life

Key to making the site more personal is getting more and more information about you into the network, which makes their guess about what interests you and what you might find as interesting advertising more accurate. One aspect to getting to know you better and keeping you immersed in the site is more connections, both in quality and quantity.

The new Facebook "Find Friends" Browser suggests you should "Find friends from different parts of your life", prompting you not only to follow the recommended folks they serve up with rich profile photos and mutual friend counts, but also to search based on Hometown, Current City, High School, College, Employer, and most interestingly to me, to Mutual Friends. So you could essentially walk down a mutual friend's list of connections. The more mutual friends the suggestion would have, the more likely they are to be a friend of yours, or so it would seem.

Facebook Recommended Friends Due to Mutual Connections

While this is valuable, it also hints this is an incredible tip of the iceberg. You could already select multiple attributes, for example finding "Mutual friends of Jesse Stay" and selecting "Sunnyvale, CA". I found two folks in that search, and 24 who named their hometown as San Francisco, and were "Mutual friends of Rick Klau". Extend this to what you like, and that's a clear next step. Friends of yours in Sunnyvale who like The Smiths? Go. Friends of yours in Denver who like Twitter? Go.

There's no real equivalent of this massive database on the Web. There are good friend recommendation services from Twitter and Google Buzz, of course, but Facebook has all the names, and the metadata of each individual connection means this little improvement could go a long way. As Facebook surfaces more and more public information from what was once previously private, imagine the world's personal database searchable. There's no longer the six degrees of Kevin Bacon at work here. Just one starting point. Browse your friends here: