Facebook has introduced a new search engine which aims to leverage user data to discover new information from the reams of personal information on the site.
Graph Search will focus on people, places, photos, and interests. The search will use the social network's user data to uncover things like your friends' favourite restaurants or where people work.
"This some of the coolest stuff we've brought to market so this is really neat stuff. This some of the coolest stuff we've done in a while," said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at a press conference attended by V3.
Graph Search will show up on Facebook as a large search bar on the top of profile pages. With it users will be able search for information about friends and people outside of their social circle.
The new search engine will use real language as a jump off for searches. Searches on Graph will be able to detect language. Users will be able to type in phrases like "Restaurants my friends like in New York," and find the answer to their query.
Facebook users will also be able to search for things like photos from certain time periods and favourite music of people in a certain profession using the Graph Search.
Among the use cases presented by Facebook was a search for the favourite music of Mitt Romney fans made by searching the phrase "What music does Mitt Romney fans like?"
The new search feature looks to bring privacy considerations into the fold. Facebook said that privacy was built into the search from the beginning. According to the company, users will be able to opt out certain data from the service.
As an example, Facebook used a method for removing tags with a user's information from a photo. The decision to opt out would allow for users to not be identified in a search.
Along with the ability to search Facebook user information, the company announced a partnership with Microsoft's Bing search engine which will allow users to search general web information on the site.
However, Facebook stressed this was an early beta of the product and made moves to quell any claims it was moving into web search to rival Google.
"Graph Search isn't web search," said Zuckerberg.
Analysts lauded the company for keeping Graph Search as a limited service. Ovum's Eden Zoller said that the social networking firm will avoid a full-scale search war with larger firms.
"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," Zoller explained.
"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."
Graph Search is currently available in limited beta and will be rolled out slowly over the next year.
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