Mark Zuckerberg's vision for a world in which people are connected to each other for all time has remained unrealized, despite his best efforts with Open Graph and Timeline. But with Graph Search, he may have finally found the last piece of the puzzle.
"Our mission is to make the world more open and connected," the Facebook CEO said last year at the TC Disrupt conference. "We do this by giving people the power to share whatever they want and be connected to whoever they want, no matter where they are."
In Zuckerberg's world, all of these social interactions flow through one platform -- Facebook. They occur no matter what you are doing and when. You can use your Social Graph to improve your life. And by the time you're done, your Facebook account doubles as your journal, your scrapbook, and a record of your life -- all in one.
Facebook needed to launch a few key products to get there, though.
In 2010, Zuckerberg unveiled the Facebook Open Graph, the social network's attempt to use its Social Graph to connect and dominate the web. By bringing all the social actions occurring on the web into Facebook, the social network figured it would become the heart and soul of the web; it would become our history books; it would become our lives.
"If we can take these separate maps of the graph and pull them all together, then we can create a web that's smarter, more social, more personalized, and more semantically aware," Zuckerberg said at the time. "These connections aren't just happening on Facebook, they're happening all over the Web, and today with the Open Graph we're bringing all these things together."
Zuckerberg's work wasn't done, though. You can have all the social data in the world, but it means nothing if people can't access it. So in 2011, Facebook unveiled the Facebook Timeline, its massive redesign of user profiles. It also unveiled Facebook Open Graph Actions, which fed real-time social actions into the Facebook News Feed without the need for constant user approval.
It was a big deal -- a very, very big deal. Here's what I said about the changes the day before they were announced:
The changes Facebook will roll out on Thursday are designed to enhance the emotional connection its users have to each other through Facebook. These changes will make Facebook a place where nearly everything in your life is enhanced by your social graph. These changes will make it so you know your friends better than you ever thought you could.
It still wasn't enough, though. Users could share anything they were doing, in real-time, but actually harnessing all of that data to find places your friends liked or photos from your college days remained out of reach.
Say hello to Facebook Graph Search. It's not just a search engine -- it's the realization of Zuckerberg's vision. For the first time, users can truly harness the power of their Social Graph.
Want to find photos from your graduation? Done. Want to find out which of your friends went to Harvard and graduated with biology degrees? Done. Decided to unfriend anybody who supports the NRA? You can do that, too.
I can't even begin to imagine the clever ways users and developers will use Graph Search's natural language interface to access Facebook's treasure trove of social data. For the first time, Facebook is actually useful -- not just a time sink. Zuckerberg wasn't kidding when he called Graph Search the third pillar of Facebook.
There's still more work to be done until Zuckerberg's vision is fully realized. Graph Search still doesn't crawl the full Open Graph, and as I argued recently on CNBC, Facebook has to figure out a way to monetize Graph Search.
For now though, Zuckerberg and his team have built something that will not only be a pillar of Facebook, but an essential pillar of the web itself. It will change the way you use Facebook and, eventually, the way you interact with the world.