Facebook’s bizarre search algorithm

I’ve been having some problems trying to locate friends on Facebook and now I know why.

Facebook’s search algorithm is the most bizarre search algorithm known to man.

If you know how to spell their name exactly and type it all in lower-case that works fine. As soon as you introduce a capital or partial then spacing, which letters are capitalized and the length of the match all seem to play their part in the bizarre matching process that never delivers what you would expect although does deliver the same results every time.

I’ll use my name as an example (~ indicates additional space character):

Damien Guard / damien guard

Finds me, two coast guards named Nick Zieser and Patrick Fernandez, a person called Romy Domingo and two groups that match on description. The other people have nothing in the “Matches” field to indicate why they were bought in but not too strange.

Damie guar

Finds me, Damien Guarnieri and Kyle Damien Guarco. This one makes sense.

damien guar / ~damie guar

Should return same as above but oddly excludes Kyle.

Damien Guar / damie Guar~ / Damie Guard / dami Guard / dami guar / dami guard / dami guar

No matches at all.

damie guar

Curiously only Damien Guarnieri. Worrying given that many people search with lower case.

damie Guar

Damien Guarnieri and Kyle Damien Guarco only. No sign of me.

dami gua

The above two plus Damian La Guardia but still no sign of me or Damian Guard.

Damie guard / damie guard / damie Guard / Damie Guard / damien Guar / damie Guar

Just me.

dam guar

Finds a Damian Guard in Tulsa but nobody else.

dami gua

Includes most of the people mentioned here but excludes my partial-namesake Damian Guard.

Damia Guar

Finds Damian Guardia and Damian La Guardia which didn’t show for “Dami Guar” yet excludes Damian Guard again.

It’s likely a case of devs trying to be intelligent and ending up with a usability nightmare but until they get their act together be prepared to try all sorts of combinations for partial matching.


5 responses

  1. Avatar for Kezzer

    I've been aware of this one for a while. Countless times have I known a friends name, known what network they're in, and yet Facebook either retrieves an arbitrary individual which certainly looks unrelated to my search, or it tells me it can't find whom I'm looking for.

    The worst is looking for people within groups, even if you spell their name perfectly it will say it couldn't find any results.

    Odd indeed.

    Kezzer March 18, 2008
  2. Avatar for Richard

    Could this be down to something like soundex?

    Richard March 18, 2008
  3. Avatar for Damien Guard

    I thought that too at first but soundex isn't supposed to be case sensitive.

    Damien Guard March 19, 2008
  4. Avatar for Naomi

    Quite odd. I find that when I search for myself and spell my first name correctly: Naomi, but omit a 'c' from my last name: Schonblum - it returns no results.

    I have played with the search by name and misspelled friends name, and there is no predictive behaviour despite the number of repeated omissions and name variations.

    Interesting though, Facebook is about connecting people, so maybe this is a way to endorse more connections and inter-communication.

    A thought out glitch? Who knows?

    Naomi March 24, 2008
  5. Avatar for dhanesh mane

    Gb search algorithm is really very powerful. I was working on Fb pages. Normally when you type in search box it starts comparing with title of your fb page but ordering depends upon many many factors. It checks the popularity of the page as well as no of fans and i think many more things which I am not ablke to explore but I am sure the algorithm check for some more things. if any one came across then please keep let us no.

    Thx Dhanesh Mane

    dhanesh mane April 27, 2010