Facebook launches search tool to take on Google

by Tineka Smith| 16 January 2013

The social network has released the “graph search” which allows users to find information and new connections on the site by using key phrases.

The Graph search will now allow users to do specific searches about friends on the site. For example, a person can search for "people from my hometown who like skiing" or even "friends of friends who like surfing."

The search capabilities are vast as users will have access to over one billion people, 240 billion photos and more than a trillion connections when searching on Facebook.

Facebook graph search

"Facebook's mission is to make the world more open and connected," said the company "The main way we do this is by giving people the tools to map out their relationships with the people and things they care about. We call this map the graph. It's big and constantly expanding with new people, content and connections."

The social search tool appears as a larger search bar at the top of each page and users can use key phrases instead of browsing.
The search tool differs from web search because users must use phrases instead of keywords. Once a user has entered a specific phrase they are then given a set of people, places, photos and other content that has been shared on Facebook.

Facebook graph search

"When Facebook first launched, the main way most people used the site was to browse around, learn about people and make new connections. Graph Search takes us back to our roots and allows people to use the graph to make new connections."

Facebook points out that each piece of content on Facebook has its own audience and most of it is not public. Users will only be able to see what they could already view elsewhere on the social network.

The move by Facebook puts the company in direct competition with Google while massively increasing their advertising appeal.

"Facebook Graph Search is not a web search engine, but a search tool designed to enrich the Facebook platform and experience for both users and advertisers," said Eden Zoller, principal analyst at Ovum. "This is sensible as a full blown web search engine from Facebook would inevitably have to compete with Google search, and given Google's dominance of the search market it would be hard for Facebook to make a serious impact - and win advertising dollars."

"Before the arrival of Facebook's Graph Search, the search function on Facebook was basic and as such, a wasted opportunity given Facebook's imperative to strengthen advertising revenues. Facebook Graph Search will no doubt leverage member data to provide advertisers with more targeted, personalized advertising opportunities going forward. But Facebook needs tread very carefully here and be mindful of user privacy. It claims to have built Graph Search with privacy in mind, but Facebook has a mixed track record on this front and is in the habit of pushing privacy to the limits of what is acceptable."

The Graph search beta is currently available but will have a slow rollout. Members can go to www.facebook.com/graphsearch to be on the waiting list.

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