Facebook unveils Graph Search: could it have stolen a march on Google?

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Facebook Graph Search

Right. That’s it. Mystery over. Facebook has unveiled a brand new product and it’s called Graph Search.

Um, what now? Well, it’s a form of search but it’s different to the kind of web search that Google specialises in.

According to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, it’s all about utilising the connections on Facebook “that can help you get access to things people have shared with you.”

“We are not indexing the web. We are indexing our map of the graph, which is really big and constantly changing. Almost a million new people every day. 240 billion photos. 1 billion people. 1 trillion connections.”

Unlike traditional search, he said, it is designed to provide you with the answers to your questions rather than links to the answers.

One interesting aspect of the product, which Zuckerburg said took “a few months” to build, is that you can type your search queries right into the blue bar at the top of Facebook which is now just a search bar with an “F” logo.

Right from the offset you’ll be able to search people, photos, places, and interests meaning that you can, for instance, search people who near you and who like hiking before you organise a climb up a nearby mountain.

Facebook Graph Search

According to Zuckerberg, results are ranked by people you care the most about, while the rest are sorted by mutual friends and other signals in the Facebook system.

You can also continually refine your searches, enabling you to adjust them on the fly.

He added that one of big design problems that Facebook had to solve in building Graph Search was making it so that people could ask these questions “in a natural and intuitive way.”

The hoodied one explained that the Graph Search was the third pillar of Facebook’s strategy to go along with conventional social networking and Timeline.

“Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. We do this by giving people tools so they can map out the stories of their lives,” he added, calling Facebook “a community and a database of people’s lives.”

In “the beginning, before News Feed, the way people used Facebook was to browse around and discover new things in their network”. Then along came Timeline which allowed people to get Facebook to “tell me something about this person.”

The company joined the ranks of massive tech companies when it announced the mystery press event during giant electronic show CES. That’s the kind of thing Apple and Google have done in the past.

In the run up to event some speculated that the social network might be unveiling in its own phone or mobile OS. Those were however always going to be unlikely. Zuckerberg has previously stated that a mobile phone would be a bad move for the social network and the mobile OS game is already pretty crowded.

Graph Search makes sense given that it makes use of features already at Facebook’s disposal. The company itself reckons the tool is useful for everything from recruiting to dating. By building the product directly into Facebook, it’s also making sure that the learning curve isn’t too massive.

Changing online habits isn’t easy, but if anyone can do it’s the social network that tore the rug out from under Myspace’s feet.

The Graph Search beta starts today, and you can get on the waiting list from the site.

Facebook says it will roll out Graph Search slowly so that it “can see how people use Graph Search and make improvements.”

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